Weather expert visits Stornoway

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A weather expert will visit Lews Castle College this week to give a lecture on fascinating research on weather balloons.

Professor Giles Harrison from the University of Reading will give a lecture tomorrow night (Tuesday) at the College on the subject of ‘Engineering weather balloons for atmospheric science measurements.’

In 2003 of the meteorology department at the University of Reading, UK, became involved in an art project that attached a video camera to a weather balloon.  He was intrigued by how much the camera shook as the balloon wobbled.  So, being an experimental scientist, he attached sensors to detect the Earth’s magnetic field.  This provided a measure of the atmospheric turbulence that the balloon was experiencing.

Since then Giles’s “Pandora’s box” of balloon-borne sensors has gone from strength to strength.  It has helped with projects from detecting ash from the Icelandic volcano during the flight ban to measuring charge on dust plumes from the Sahara.  Ultimately this nifty box of tricks could include optical detectors to help firm up cloud measurements or high-energy particle detectors to check on space weather.

His undergraduate and postgraduate degrees are from the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London.  He has authored or co-authored over 200 papers, with over 130 published in internationally-refereed journals and in 2011 he gave the Bill Bright lecture at the International Electrostatics Conference, Bangor, Wales, UK.  His research continues over 250 years of UK studies in atmospheric electricity, particularly aerosol physics, solar-climate interactions, scientific sensor development and the retrieval of quantitative data from historical sources.  His instrumentation work has developed balloon-carried probes for detection of turbulence and cloud properties aloft, also undertaking some of the first airborne measurements in UK airspace of the Icelandic volcanic ash from Eyjafjallajökull during the April 2010 flight ban.

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