© Crown Copyright
Tethered balloon (top left) with turbulence probe (centre) and cloud droplet probe (bottom right) mounted on cable.

Meteorological Research Unit

Surface and balloon-borne meteorological observations and research are performed to improve parametrizations in the Unified Model.

The Meteorological Research Unit (MRU) is located at Cardington, Bedfordshire. The facility has a wide variety of research grade surface and sub-surface, mast-mounted and balloon-borne instruments. The site has been operating since 1998. Research campaigns are conducted both on site and at remote locations throughout the UK. Topics studied include boundary layer cloud and fog, stable boundary layers, flow over hills and urban meteorology.

At the Cardington facility we have a comprehensive suite of surface and mast-mounted instrumentation for both in situ and remote sensing the atmosphere. Quantities measured include wind and turbulence, temperature and humidity, radiation, visibility, aerosols, clouds, fog, soil temperature and moisture content. Data are logged continuously and processed data from the site is made available through the British Atmospheric Data Centre (BADC).

The surface site data record stretches back to 1998. Our 1800 cubic foot balloon is capable of lifting six turbulence probes or one turbulence probe and a cloud droplet probe up to a height of 6000 feet. We also release radiosondes when required. Additional on-site activities include instrument development and trials.

Field campaigns are run for durations of between a few weeks up to more than a year and may include deployment at multiple sites. Surface based detachments are similar to our main facility at Cardington and include a mobile radiosonde facility, which can be deployed rapidly during periods of interest.

Our research is often in collaboration with other institutes, such as the UK university community,  FAAM and FGAM.

Key Aims

  • Improve understanding of meteorological processes in the boundary layer
  • Direct validation and development of high resolution numerical models, focusing on specific NWP issues
  • Emphasis is on small scale processes relevant to the latest generation of high resolution models

Current Projects

  • COLPEX: MRU has recently collaborated with UK universities on a 15 month field project in the Welsh Borders region. The purpose of this experiment is to study cold air pooling in valleys relevant to frost and fog forecasting. Three large sites and approximately 30 smaller weather stations have been deployed over an area approximately 4x7 miles. Supplementary instruments and radiosondes are also deployed during intense observing periods when weather of significant interest is expected.
  • Fog studies: An ongoing activity at MRU is the observation of fog events to assist in the improvement of our fog forecasting capability. Case studies have been conducted and compared with both large eddy simulations and forecast models, with particular emphasis on evolution of stability, turbulence and droplet spectra over the fog's lifetime.
  • Stable boundary layers: A campaign has recently been conducted to better classify and understand stable boundary layer formation and evolution over relatively flat terrain. Twenty case studies have been conducted over a period of about 18 months and a comparison between two sites closely located but with different topography has been performed.
  • Aerosol and visibility studies: Routine aerosol and visibility observations are made at Cardington. These have been used to construct a neural network visibility predictor, which has been shown to improve prediction of visibility at the Cardington site. Further work aims to extend the study to other sites, such as airports, throughout the UK.
You might also be interested in…
Last Updated: 26 March 2010