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The Chilbolton Facility for Atmospheric and Radio Research is located one mile south of Chilbolton Village, 6 miles south of Andover, Hampshire. The site was used as an airfield during the Second World War and is relatively flat and slightly elevated above the surrounding area. The site coordinates are: 51º 09' N, 01º 26' W.

Figure 1.
The Chilbolton site.


The CCLRC Chilbolton Observatory in Hampshire, southern England is a major facility with a wide range of experimental instrumentaton for remote sensing of the atmosphere, those measurements are complemented by others made using in-situ sampling instruments at the site. The instrumentation includes advanced meteorological radars, a UV Raman vertical sounding lidar, an IR ceilometer, multi-frequency microwave radiometers, a high resolution Fourier Transform Spectrometer, visible and IR broadband radiometers, and a sky camera.

The site was chosen in the 1960s as a suitable location for a research facility primarily designed to study radio propagation and problems concerned with satellite communications. Construction of a Radio and Space Field Station featuring a 25m radio antenna (the Chilbolton dish) was completed in 1967. Nowadays, the site known as the Chilbolton Facility for Atmospheric and Radio Research is operated by the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (CCLRC) Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. The main research areas studied at the facility are cloud physics, dynamical meteorology and radiowave propagation. The instruments at Chilbolton collect a wide range of atmospheric data useful for the calibration and validation of remote sensing systems operating in optical, IR and microwave regions.

Projects: Overview

The CLOUDMAP2 Project (2001 - 2004) was funded by the EC as part of its 5th Framework Programme. The project produced and exploited value-added remote sensing data products including macroscopic (e.g. cloud-top height) and microscopic (e.g. cloud droplet radius) properties, and water vapour distributions to characterise sub-grid scale processes within Numerical Weather Prediction Models (NWP) through validation and data assimilation. Ground-based active microwave and passive thermal IR remote-sensing instruments at Chilbolton were used to help validate EO-derived products from MODIS, MERIS, ATSR-2 & SEVERI (eg. cloud boundaries & cloud cover) as well as be merged to create new fused value-added products. For more information see:

The Clouds, Water Vapour and Climate (CWVC) Project funded by NERC aims to investigate the physical processes responsible for the distribution of humidity and clouds and their influence on the climate: this is achieved by collecting radar data that are coordinated with a series of flights of the NERC/Met Office FAAM research aircraft over Chilbolton. The most recent flight took place on the 5th July 2005. More information can be found at:

The CLOUDNET project (2001-2005) is funded by the EC as part of its 5th Framework Programme. The project is using data obtained quasi-continuously at Chilbolton for the development, implementation and validation of cloud remote sensing synergy algorithms. The use of active and passive instruments (lidar, radar & radiometers) results in detailed vertical profiles of important cloud parameters. For more information see:

Figure 2
94 GHz "Galileo" and 35 GHz "Copernicus" cloud radars at Chilbolton (© CCLRC, 2005).
Dual-wavelength cloud radar measurements make it possible to determine the liquid water content and ice water content of clouds.

The Convective Storms Initiation Project (CSIP) (2004-2005) is jointly funded by the Met Ofice and NERC to understand where and how convective clouds form and develop into showers. A large array of ground-based instruments are being deployed in southern England, over an area centred on the 3 GHz (CAMRa) and 1275 clear-air (ACROBAT) radars at Chilbolton. In addition to data collected by SEVERI on MSG, two aircraft are complementing the ground-based instruments by mapping the temperature and dew point of the boundary layer. More information can be found at:

The ICEPIC (Ice and Precipitation Initiation in Cumulus) research project is being funded by NERC to understand and quantify the formation and growth of ice particles in cumulus congestus clouds by combining airborne measurements in cumulus congestus clouds with Doppler radar measurements. The FAAM aircraft, equipped with leading edge cloud microphysics instruments, will be flown through cumulus clouds in the vicinity of the dual-polarisation Doppler radar at Chilbolton.

Current remote sensing research at the site (2005)

CLOUDSAT is an experimental satellite scheduled for launch in the late summer or autumn of 2005 as part of the A-Train constellation of satellites (Aqua, CloudSat, CALIPSO, PARASOL, and Aura). It will use radar to study clouds and precipitation from space. Data collected using radars and lidars at Chilbolton will be used to validate retrievals of cloud parameters derived from satellite measurements.

In addition to the ongoing cloud and dynamical meteorology research referred to already, the CFARR supports research into precipitation characteristics and structure, water vapour distribution, and aerosol distribution. In support of the latter activity the facility has recently acquired NERC FSF CIMEL sun photometer and become part of AERONET (Aerosol Robotic Network). This is a world-wide network of ground-based remote sensing instruments designed for assessing aerosol optical properties and validating satellite measurements. The CIMEL sun photometer will measure the aerosol optical depth at several wavelengths from UVA to near IR during periods of sunlight.

Sunphotometers under test at Chilbolton

Figure 3.
Sunphotometers under test at Chilbolton (© NCAVEO, 2004).

The meteorological instrument cabin at Chilbolton

Figure 4.
The meteorological instrument cabin at Chilbolton (NCAVEO, 2004).


Links for further information

Chilbolton Observatory weather web:
This web-site displays live weather readings from the instruments operated at the Chilbolton Facility.

Home page of the Chilbolton Observatory

Information on Chilbolton airfield

More pictures of Chilbolton

Key contact for the Chilbolton site

Charles Wrench
Head, Atmospheric Science and Instrumentation Group
Tel. No. : +44 (0)1235 446427

Some relevant publications based on research at Chilbolton

Goddard JWF, Eastment JD, Thurai M., 1994: "The Chilbolton Advanced Meteorological Radar - A Tool for Multidisciplinary Atmospheric Research"
Elect. & Comm. Eng. Jnl. 6 (2): 77-86

Hogan RJ, Field PR, Illingworth AJ, Cotton RJ, Choularton TW., 2002: "Properties of embedded convection in warm-frontal mixed-phase cloud from aircraft and polarimetric radar", Q.J.Roy. Met. Soc., 128 (580): 451-476 Part B

Field PR, Hogan RJ, Brown PRA, Illingworth AJ, Choularton TW, Kaye PH, Hirst E, Greenaway R., 2004:"Simultaneous radar and aircraft observations of mixed-phase cloud at the 100m scale" Q, J. Roy. Met. Soc.,130 (600): 1877-1904 Part A

Naud, C.M., J.-P.Muller, E.C.Slack, C.L.Wrench, E.E.Clothiaux, 2005: "Assessment of the Performance of the Chilbolton 3-GHz Advanced Meteorological Radar for Cloud-Top-Height Retrieval," J. Appl. Met., 44(6), 876-887.

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© NCAVEO, 2005
Network for Calibration and Validation of Earth Observation data
School of Geography, University of Southampton
Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK

Last updated 13/01/2006