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Tracking Insects With a Big Dish, Australian Floods

This podcast from the Planet Earth Online collection and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) looks at how tracking insects can help scientists forecast summer storms and floods, and the role one of Europe's key satellite missions played in the recent floods in Queensland, Australia.

The huge Chilbolton Facility for Atmospheric and Radio Research was originally designed to be used by astronomers. But now the Big Dish – as it's affectionately known among its users – is much more likely to be used by weather scientists.

Set in the Hampshire countryside, the dish records detailed information about the height and depth of clouds, and whether they are clouds are made of ice or water. Only then can scientists say if the clouds are likely to cause huge storms.

In another report, Sue Nelson meets some of the scientists behind this research to find out more about tracking insects to work out how to forecast storms.

Later, we find out how one of Europe's most sophisticated scientific satellites– SMOS, or the Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity mission – is getting on. The satellite recently took centre stage during the floods in Queensland, Australia, when it helped show the full extent of saturated soil in the region.

But it doesn't just measure soil moisture levels; by measuring how salty the world's oceans are. SMOS also helps reveal ocean circulation patterns, letting scientists make more accurate weather forecasts. Sue goes to the National Oceanography Centre for an update.

A transcript of the recording is provided to assist those who find text-based content more accessible than audio.

This podcast is dated 23 February 2011.

NERC is a part of the Research Councils UK (RCUK) partnership of research councils.

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