One of the main aims of the DIAMET Research Project is to improve our understanding of atmospheric processes. Hopefully this will then lead to an improvement in the accuracy of weather forecasts, especially the forecasting of severe weather events.
THE IMPORTANCE OF WEATHER
Weather affects all of our lives. It dictates what clothes we wear, how much energy we use in our homes and how we spend our leisure time.
Weather also influences the land around us, providing farmers with the right conditions to grow crops, keep animals and feed local communities.
Severe weather, like gales, heavy rain and snow can disrupt local infrastructure and cause widespread damage.
Consequently, accurate weather forecasts play an important role in helping people plan their lives and prepare for any severe weather events.
FORECASTING THE WEATHER
The UK’s Meteorological Office (Met Office) in Exeter is one of the world’s leading providers of weather forecasts. They use a technique called Numerical Weather Prediction to produce forecasts. This process uses a very large supercomputer which contains sophisticated computer programs to represent the science of the weather. The computer is supplied with present weather observations from around the world as starting data.
Once all the data has been collected and checked to make sure it’s reliable, the supercomputer attempts to simulate how the atmosphere behaves as it moves forward in time. It carries out millions of calculations that describe how the atmosphere will change in the hours and days ahead.
The computer then produces charts of temperatures, pressure, rainfall and other weather parameters which forecasters analyse to produce the weather forecast for the general public and major customers.
Watch the Met Office video below for a behind the scenes look at modern day weather forecasting in action.
THE DIAMET PROJECT
DIAMET is a science research project involving University groups from Manchester, Leeds, Reading and East Anglia, together with the Met Office. DIAMET is part of the Natural Environment Research Council’s (NERC’s) Storm Risk Mitigation research programme, and is led by NERC’s National Centre for Atmospheric Sciences. It is a three-year project with a number of specific objectives aimed at improving weather forecasts.
Forecasting high winds and heavy rain accurately is a high priority for national weather services, and indeed forecasts have improved considerably in recent years. However, one of the most challenging tasks is to predict localised regions of particularly severe weather within larger-scale storm systems. The large scale storm may be well forecast but pin-pointing the smaller regions of intense rainfall or severe winds are much more difficult, especially more than a day ahead. Of course, it’s these smaller regions of severe weather which are likely to cause the most damage.
This is the challenge facing the DIAMET project. Improving our understanding of atmospheric processes, in particular the way in which ‘diabatic’ heating and cooling affects storm behaviour. Diabatic refers to any process that involves a transfer of heat.
As warm moist air rises in a storm, it forms clouds of water droplets and then, at higher altitudes, ice particles. Rain (and snow) forms through the growth and merging of these particles. However as water changes phase, from vapour to water liquid and then to ice, the heat energy that went into evaporating the vapour from the ocean surface is released – changing the temperature of the air.
This sets up temperature gradients in the atmosphere that can have profound consequences for the development of storms.
DIAMET is using a specially designed research aircraft which can fly directly into storms. It’s operated by NERC and the Met Office and can carry different instruments and experiments which allow scientists to capture measurements of large scale storms, the way the different particles behave and the feedback between these processes.
Together with ground-based radar and satellite measurements this provides a powerful insight into exactly what is happening inside the storms.
Scientists can then use this information in different ways, including tohelp the Met Office improve the supercomputer’s simulations of how the atmosphere works and also the way weather observations are used as starting data.
Watch the DIAMET video below for a behind the scenes look at the research scientists in action.
Many scientists believe that climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing the global community.
"Climate change is the most severe problem that we are facing today, more serious even than the threat of terrorism."
Professor Sir David King, Former UK Chief Scientist (Science 2004)
Climate change refers to a prolonged and significant change in average weather conditions such as rainfall and temperature. Climate change can occur in response to natural causes like changes in the Earth’s orbit or volcanic eruptions. However, since the early 1900s, many experts believe that the Earth’s climate has changed due to human activities. The burning of fossil fuels and the resultant increase in carbon dioxide within the atmosphere has been linked to an accelerated global warming.
Climatic conditions are monitored across the globe and the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change regularly reports on the wide range of evidence that indicates our planet is warming. They have concluded,
‘Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal’ – Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change.
The evidence includes, increasing temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns, melting ice and rising sea levels.
Consequently, research projects like DIAMET are increasingly important so that scientists can understand how our atmosphere will react to these changes. Improving weather forecasts is also vitally important as scientists continue to research whether climate change will bring an increase in the number of severe weather events affecting the UK.
If you would like a high resolution copies of the videos on this page, please follow the link below.”