Operation Cloud Lab
Confirmed for BBC Two on 16 July at 8.00pm to 9.00pm
Wednesday 16 July
Flying coast to coast across the United States, the team undertake a series of exciting experiments shedding light on the causes of wild weather, how life exploits the atmosphere, and the human impact upon the weather.
The team begin their expedition by exploring clouds, which play a vital role in the planet’s ecology by transporting water from the oceans to the Earth’s land surfaces and generating 1.4 trillion tonnes of rainfall each day.
Expedition leader and meteorologist Felicity Aston examines how clouds capture and store liquid water in the skies with an ambitious experiment to try and weigh a cloud.
Former paratrooper Andy Torbet sets out to measure the forces that keep clouds afloat by parachuting through the turbulent and potentially dangerous air that surrounds one.
The study reveals that clouds generate vast amounts of energy. A typical cumulus cloud - similar to the one Andy measures - generates enough heat energy to power the average home for 17 years.
Microbiologist Dr Chris Van Tulleken completes the team’s examination of clouds with a study of one of the most radical ideas in meteorology - that some clouds are alive and as a consequence are more likely to form rain than others.
Using the unique flight characteristics of the airship, Chris samples the air from within a cloud and detects the presence of live bacteria. Chris then reveals that bacteria are more effective at seeding rain than other, well-known cloud seeding agents such as dust. For Chris the result challenges the whole way we understand how weather is created, raising the possibility that living clouds will rain more readily than clouds that aren’t.
Finally, the team examine why there has been an increase in hurricanes along the Gulf Coast with surprising results.
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