• forecasting;
  • modelling;
  • remote sensing


Atmospheric observations from aircraft have played an important role in meteorological research for many years; this paper presents an overview of meteorological research done with research aircraft in the United Kingdom. Key developments from throughout the history of meteorological research flying in the United Kingdom are presented, along with highlights of UK atmospheric research flying done in the last decade using the Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements (FAAM) BAe-146 aircraft. The work presented includes research into thermodynamics, cloud processes, atmospheric aerosol, radiative transfer and atmospheric chemistry. Research aircraft provide a unique platform for the observation of atmospheric processes, allowing targeted measurement of specific parameters at a range of altitudes throughout the atmosphere. These measurements have improved greatly the understanding of the Earth's atmosphere, and the impact of these measurements has been seen through improvements in the representation of physical processes within numerical weather prediction (NWP) and climate models. Research aircraft have also been used extensively for the calibration and validation of remote sensing measurements, providing a unique test-bed for satellite observations. This research has led to improved use of satellite observations that have enhanced greatly how the atmosphere is viewed. Many developments in atmospheric research would not have been possible without the use of aircraft measurements, and these measurements will continue to play a key role in future developments of meteorological observation and prediction, as the complexity and resolution of weather and climate models increases.