Meteorological equipment specialist Biral has installed a thunderstorm detector at the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) at the Chilbolton Observatory near Andover in the UK. The Biral BTD-300 sits alongside cloud radars, and is being used by a team from the University of Reading to investigate the early stages of thunderstorm electrification. The academics hope to shed light on how some convective clouds become strongly electrified. Data from the highly sensitive quasi-electrostatic antennas of the BTD-300 is used to detect the first signs of charge accumulating on raindrops and the presence of charged particles drifting in the wind. This is combined with profiles of the overhead cloud and precipitation measured by the observatorys microwave radars. Details of the atmosphere up to the cloud base is provided by laser cloud base recorders. The BTD-300 will provide the range and bearing of all lightning activity up to 80km (50 miles) from the site. This will be combined with radar and satellite images of the surrounding atmosphere to deliver a complete assessment of developing thunderstorms.
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