1st October 2007 Monthly Meeting - Weather and Astronomy by Donald Campbell

On Monday 1st October, the EAAS met at Ballyclare High School for their October meeting when Mr. Donald Campbell from the Met. Office and Mr. Stephen Beasant, EAAS gave talks to the society.

The meeting began with introductions from our vice-chairman, Mark Stronge, when he mentioned the observing session at Killylane last month and introduced Eamonn Keyes to speak about a new venture for the club.

Following a suggestion from members, the committee have decided to introduce a society library, of which members can lend out and receive books and DVDs. This venture is to be run by Veronica Williams, who we would like to thank for volunteering to do this. This was received very well by the members present and a few people came forward with some good suggestions. An announcement was also made about 2 new telescopes which were on display and hve been gratefully donated to the society by honorary member Robert Dick.

Our Secretary, Mr Stephen Beasant, then gave use an excellent presentation on his favourite highlights found in Taurus and Auriga. He showed the members charts and images of such subjects as The Pleiades(M45) and the Crab Nebula(M1) and their locations. The constellation talks have been much requested and we hope will be a very popular series within the club, for new and more experienced members alike. Look out for more info on these constellations which we will be adding to the website in the near future.

Our main speaker of the evening was Mr. Donald Campbell, a local man from Ballyclare who works for the Met. Office. He began by introducing us to how the weather is forecast for the British Isles. He covered the jet stream, the ocean currents and the prevailing winds which bring moist air over the land and produce our humid climate. Mr. Campbell then theorised as to how we can forecast when the best conditions for observing will be. He showed us how a high pressure system to the north of Ireland can bring cold, clear, crisp air down from the North-East where, after shedding any absorbed water vapour over the Scottish Highlands can leave Ireland with clear skies and light winds. Donald also showed us how this had occurred in the past and showed us photos and weather charts showing how the weather systems can interact around our islands.

Donald then moved on in his presentation to explain the phenomena of Noctilucent and Nacreous Clouds. He showed us graphics and thus explained that Noctilucent clouds reside mainly in the Mesopause near the thermosphere at a height of between 80-85Km. These appear mainly between May to June but have also been observed outside these months. Nacreous clouds appear in the Stratosphere at a height of between 20-30Km when the temperature is low. Next he went onto the phenomena that is caused by temperature inversions that take place at a height of 5000 feet and are produced typically in late spring. By showing us pictures of this phenomena, we could see strange visual illusions especially that of the setting sun. He also gave an example of how these could cause sudden changes of temperature: 9th August 1995 ground air temperature was 2 degrees Celsius whilst the summit of Slieve Donard was 15 degrees Celsius.

With his main topic covered Mr. Campbell went on to show us of his experiences overseas in Antarctica, Ascension Island and the Falkland Islands. He showed us spectacular photos of lenticular clouds, haloes and mirages including a mirage on the north coast of Ireland during a heat wave a few years ago.

A question and answer session followed where he answered questions about how meteorites fallen on the Antarctic ground can quickly be lost due to heating and cooling over a period of a few weeks. A whole aeroplane was lost this way after the war and is embedded in the ice a few metres below the surface to this day. The best question which I will leave you with is:

Is the weather going to get any better?

Clear Skies
Philip Matchett

About Donald Campbell
Mr Donald Campbell is married with 2 children and lives locally in Ballyclare but he spends much of his time overseas with his work as a weather forecaster with the United Kingdom Meteorological Office.

After five years as a voluntary weather observer in Northern Ireland, Mr Campbell joined the Met Office in Edinburgh in 1985. His work there involved quality control of weather observations for Scotland, before moving to the Met Office at Aldergrove as an airfield weather observer in mid-1986. He trained as a weather forecaster in 1992, and spent the next three years as a forecaster in London, Belfast and Nottingham. In the summer of 1995 he moved to the Belfast Climate Office as head of legal and climate inquiries for Northern Ireland. In 2001 he moved back to the Met Office at Aldergrove as Principal Met Officer for Northern Ireland. In 2004 the Principal Met Officer post at Aldergrove was removed and since March 2004, he has worked on the Falklands and Ascension Island on 6 separate occasions in the Southern Atlantic. He has also worked as a secondment with the British Antarctic Survey in Antarctica from Oct 2005 to Jan 2006. He will shortly be joining a reserve force of weather forecasters working on a part-time basis with the front-line RAF. He is also a keen amateur astronomer.



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