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The goal of COPE is to improve forecasts of flash flooding -- the floods that occur when very heavy, or persistent, rain falls from cumulonimbus clouds.

P1030717-001A project was held over Cornwall and Devon during July and August 2013 to study the clouds. Two research aircraft, a ground-based radar and several other ground-based instruments made measurements of exactly how the rain forms and develops. The aircraft are equipped with some of the most sophisticated research instruments in the world – instruments that can distinguish between liquid and solid particles at 200 mph, for example. A major objective is to find these needles in the haystack – the first few ice crystals that form in amongst the hundreds of cloud droplets per every cubic centimetre of cloud.

COPE is led by the National Centre for Atmospheric Science and the UK Met Office, and involves scientists at the Universities of Leeds, Manchester and Reading, as well as international partners from the Universities of Purdue and Wyoming.

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