In June of this past summer, the University of Wyoming King Air research aircraft (UWKA; http://flights.uwyo.edu/n2uw/) began a long journey across the North Atlantic and settled into its temporary home in the city of Exeter on the southwestern peninsula of the UK. The UWKA was based out of Exeter for 2 months while its UW crew used the aircraft to study convective systems in southern England as part of the Convective and Precipitation Experiment (COPE). COPE was a joint project between the UK National Center for Atmospheric Study (NCAS), the UK MetOffice, and the US National Science Foundation (NSF).
UW investigators, Drs. Jeff French and Dave Leon, along with co-investigator Dr. Sonia Lasher-Trapp from Purdue University led US effort in COPE with this NSF-funded project. The UWKA flew 17 research missions during the two month period, collecting data in cumulus cloud systems ranging from ‘piddly little clouds’ to ‘large convective systems’. The focus of COPE is to understand roles that certain cloud processes play in producing or inhibiting convective systems to drop copious amounts of precipitation that can lead to flooding in this region. The 17 missions flown by the UWKA were only about 60% of what investigators hoped for. The summer of 2013 was one of the hottest and driest on record for the UK—not exactly the weather conditions investigators were expecting. Still, there were plenty of clouds to collect data such that will keep the COPE team busy studying and analyzing for the next several years.
The deployment of the UWKA in COPE also allowed opportunities for the
UWKA crew to interact with their counterparts across the pond. Several tours of the research facility were given to Atmospheric Science students and investigators from the UK. On non-fly days, scientists consulted and worked on instruments, sharing expertise and tools to increase capability and knowledge for both teams.
Finally, after a long day of working at the hangar or flying in the clouds, the crew often went to relax at their favorite local pub- The Fat Pig. At the Pig, the crew and scientists would debrief the current day’s activities and discuss prospects for flights and measurements for the coming days. The locals put up with the scientists and a few were even sad to see them leave. ‘We would be happy to pay them to come back next summer—especially if they can drive the rain clouds away as they did this year!’