CliSAP successfully finished in 2018. Climate research continues in the Cluster of Excellence "CLICCS".

New Cloud Observatory Takes Flight


Last Friday, for the first time measuring equipment for analyzing clouds and precipitation took to the skies on board the HALO research plane. For many years now, these parameters have been researched from the surface, e.g. at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology’s (MPI-M’s) Cloud Observatory on Barbados.

The new flying observatory gives us the unprecedented chance to explore clouds “up close and personal.” This is especially important since we know that clouds play an important part in global climatic processes, yet many of the factors involved in cloud formation are still unknown or not fully understood. The second test flight will be on Tuesday, June 11, taking off from Bavaria and landing in Helgoland.

The plane’s name itself hints at innovation: HALO stands for “High Altitude and Long Range Research Aircraft.” It’s the first aircraft that will make it possible to observe and analyze clouds from above, even in the most remote corners of the planet. Its onboard equipment includes e.g. the “HALO Microwave Package” (HAMP), which combines cloud radar with passive microwave radiometers; this will allow HALO to determine factors such as the total water content of clouds and rates of precipitation. Developed by the MPI-M and the University of Hamburg’s Meteorological Institute, HAMP marks yet another successful joint effort at the KlimaCampus. Technical support was provided by the Elmshorn-based company Metek. Laser radar from the German Aerospace Center (DLR), radiation detection equipment from Leipzig University and trace-gas sensors from Heidelberg University also complement the observatory.

This winter, HAMP will embark on its first research flights, which are intended to shed new light on fundamental questions that remain unanswered, such as the precise conditions that cause clouds to form precipitation. These processes are especially complex in the flat cumulus clouds of the trade-wind zone and behind the fronts of North Atlantic low-pressure zones. HALO is the first research plane equipped to investigate these areas; the on-site measurements it provides will allow researchers to precisely analyze key climatic processes, to better grasp their mechanisms, and in the next step to integrate them into future climate models.


Prof. Dr. Felix Ament
Meteorological Institute, University of Hamburg, KlimaCampus
040 42838-3597

Prof. Dr. Björn Stevens
Max-Planck-Institute for Meteorology, KlimaCampus
040 41173-421