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At the beginning of March, the NCAS mobile MIRA-35 Ka-band cloud radar (nicknamed Kepler) was transported to Weybourne on the North Norfolk coast.

This is its first deployment away from its home base at the Chilbolton Facility for Atmospheric Radar Research (CFARR). 

Dual polarisation radars, such as Kepler, have the ability to discern between heavy rain, hail, snow and sleet - essentially they can determine the size, shape and variety of precipitation. As well, dual polarisation radars can identify the melting layer. These types of radars are being used across the UK to improve the accuracy of precipitation estimates.

This cloud radar also has a scanning antenna, offering the possibility of observing spatial structure and retrieving winds. It features a magnetron capable of generating pulses with a peak power of 30kW, giving it a high sensitivity and fine range resolution.

The radar will support the Met Office campaign COALESC-3 (Combined Observations of the Atmospheric boundary-layer to study the Evolution of StatoCumulus), which aims to improve the forecasting of stratus and stratocumulus clouds affecting the British Isles. 

Data from the radar, together with further NCAS AMF instrumentation at Weybourne including a microwave radiometer and sun photometer, will be combined with Met Office surface observations at Cardington (Bedfordshire) and Denver Sluice (Norfolk) between March and June 2017.

At this time of year, northeasterly flows that advect stratus clouds from the North Sea over Norfolk are relatively common. The aim of Kepler’s deployment is to observe the Lagrangian evolution of cloud from a marine environment to one over land. The observations will combine autonomous remote-sensing equipment with regular radiosonde launches during intensive observational periods and the FAAM BAe-146 aircraft is also available to fly research sorties.

Installing the cloud radar offers the one big advantage for COALESC-3 over previous efforts. The Met Office will run its NWP forecast model at a high horizontal resolution of 100m centred on Weybourne and so comparisons of the modelled cloud structure with those retrieved with the radar promise to be very useful in evaluating the modelled cloud physics.