Over Escambia County: Really Big Blimp Explores Scientific Secrets For TV Show
September 27, 2013
The Cloud Lab blimp was spotted hovering over Escambia Bay and Ferry Pass Thursday. On board, a team of scientists worked in the world’s largest airship for one of television’s most ambitious experiments on the atmosphere.
Flying from coast to coast across the United States, in a month-long expedition for the BBC television series Cloud Lab (working title), the team of British scientists will scrutinize insect life, the relationship between life and weather, as well as how hurricanes form. The trip began Tuesday in Orlando.
The team, which includes an entomologist, meteorologist and professional explorer, is also hoping to shed light on the creation of clouds and the relationship between diverse ecosystems and weather.
The airship is a unique platform for exploring the atmosphere. It can maintain a stationary position, so the team is able to watch weather phenomena develop, and then maneuver to get the best vantage point. It flies slowly and is exceptionally stable, making it the ideal base from which to conduct scientific experiments.
Cloud Lab series producer, James Van Der Pool, explains: “The 100 kilometers or so of air above our heads is all that separates us from space. It’s in every breath we take and makes Earth habitable. Yet for all its centrality to the health of the planet there’s a lot we still don’t know about the atmosphere. For instance, at what altitude does life cease? What type of air is most likely to cause rain? With Cloud Lab we’ve a rare and exciting opportunity to address some of these questions head on.”
Skimming the ocean’s surface and drifting with the wind allows the team to explore the physics that control the creation and destruction of cumulus cloud as well as using the Cloud Lab’s sophisticated technology to examine a growing cloud’s internal anatomy.
Through sampling different types of air, from sea, and desert to city, while simultaneously measuring cloud cover, the team will attempt to understand what types of air produce the most cloud.
During the trip, the entomologist will use the airship as a sampling platform to produce a unique survey of the insect life that lives above the USA. Bats will also be filmed using a range of technology, revealing how they have learned to exploit these insect superhighways.
Other experiments include researching the role of plants in maintaining the balance of the atmosphere through measuring the amount of oxygen produced by a forest. The team will also be looking into the causes of wildfires – the recent spate of which have claimed so many lives.
BBC executive producer of Cloud Lab, Jonathan Renouf, explains: “Flying across the entire North American continent by airship is ambitious in every conceivable way. As far as we know, no one has done this for two decades. It’s incredibly exciting because we will get to explore the atmosphere in a way that’s never been done before, as well as seeing America from a unique vantage point.”
The series will air next year in Britain; there’s no word yet if the series will air in the United States.
Pictured top: The Cloud Lab blimp, the world’s largest airship, over Pensacola Thursday, reader photo by Kevin Winingar for NorthEscambia.com). Pictured below: Cloud Lab pilots watch the weather radar on the map (next to the dashboard) as they travel over the Florida Panhandle Thursday, photo courtesy BBC for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.