In the tiny space between #Arran2013 and the Cloud Lab Expedition.

Yesterday morning we climbed about the bus for the short journey from Lochranza to Brodick and then a hop over the water to Ardrossan and our onward journeys.


The previous night had been the course hand-in deadline,followed by the awarding of RS80 radiosondes to the victorious team 1 (aka – “Goat Hell”) who got the highest score in the weather game. After the obligatory course feedback (surveymonkey is your friend) and final instructions for the homeward trip, the whole group headed up the road to the Lochranza Hotel for a celebratory drink (or two!).

In the last week we have measured a wide range of atmospheric phenomena, pressure, temperature (dry and wet bulb), wind (speed/direction), radative fluxes (solar and longwave) as well as some, what I delicately termed, balloonchucking and a trip to the highest point on the island which is Goat Fell


Onward journeys.

The Reading team led by @EllieHighwood took to their heels and hit out to Glasgow on the train while the Leeds party climbed aboard the coach. An early evening report from Ellie confirmed that they just caught their connection in Wolverhampton as they headed back southwards. We had a painless drive back to Leeds where we were greeted by rain. The outward coach departed Leeds in the rain too, but I am assured that it didn’t rain for eight days!

What next…….?

So straight off the coach, into the lab to collect the final bits and pieces for my next trip.


A recent announcement from the BBC Media centre provides a brief description of Cloud Lab…..

“Cloud Lab: A team of scientists will be taking to the skies in the world’s largest airship – the Skyship 600 – for BBC Two’s ambitious atmospheric experiment – Cloud Lab. Flying from coast to coast, across the USA, in a month-long expedition, the team of British scientists will scrutinise insect life, the relationship between trees and the air we breathe as well as predicting where a hurricane is likely to hit the land. The team, which includes entomologists, weather specialists and professional explorers is also hoping to shed light on the creation of clouds and the relationship between diverse ecosystems and weather.”

After some technical delays, the airship is ready and awaiting our arrival on Sunday afternoon. I will drive south this evening for the morning flight with a bunch of the production team. It is somewhat traditional that a large fraction of my luggage is not clothing but electrical cables, bits of pipe, assorted tube fittings (stainless steel, brass AND PTFE), three laptops, an aerosol spectrometer and ‘whathaveyou’. There are a couple of challenging days ahead of us before lift-off on Wednesday and just like the past week in Lochranza we are hostage to the weather. If the wind is too strong we can’t get access to the gondola, you could think of it as a giant wind sock that swings round with the wind, the nose is secured to a mobile tower which is fitted to a support vehicle and this sits a top a turntable.

Anyway here we go, all aboard……..

Track our progress via @BBCCloudLab


About Jim McQuaid

Atmospheric scientist (chemist by birth). Working in the Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science (School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds). Often found in close proximity to the FAAM146 research aircraft. Previously found urrently providing some science (and weighing clouds!) to the BBC Cloud Lab project as well as making clouds for BBC Wild Weather series.... (more... @jimmcquaid
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