The Chilbolton Observatory
25 Jul 2013



Chilbolton Observatory is home to a wide range of science facilities covering research in atmospheric science, radiocommunications, astronomy and space science and technology.

The Chilbolton Observatory

​​​​​Chilbolton Observatory​​

The Chilbolton Observa​tory​ is a research facility where experimental studies, primarily of the atmosphere, are conducted. The site is dominated by the fully steerable 25m antenna, which can host advanced powerful radars and also sophisticated sensitive receivers for satellite and astronomy work. In support of our ongoing research programmes in atmospheric science and radio propagation, the Chilbolton Observatory frequently hosts visiting experiments and research teams from universities and other research organisations, both from the UK and abroad.​

Along with Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and Daresbury Laboratory, Chilbolton Observatory is a site owned and operated by the Science and Technology Facilities Council. The Chilbolton Atmospheric Observatory at Chilbolton is funded largely by NERC (Natural Environment Research Council). The LOFAR facility is funded by LOFAR UK.

​​​Chilbolton Atmospheric Observatory (CAO)

Chilbolton Atmospheric Observatory is an internationally recognised super-site in atmospheric remote sensing, providing long-term measurements of clouds, rainfall, boundary-layer processes and aerosols. Data collected by the facility's many instruments are archived and distributed through the Centre for Environmental Data Analysis (CEDA). It is part of the Atmospheric Measurement and Observation Facility (AMOF). Live data from Chilbolton are showcased on the Chilbolton Weather Web (link opens in a new window).

Chilbolton Atmospheric Observatory is equipped with a wide range of advanced meteorological radars, lidars and radiometers for remote sensing of the atmosphere from the ground. The measurements make a major contribution to reducing current uncertainties in numerical weather and climate models. In addition to improving the prediction of weather and climate change, the measurements are being used to study the atmospheric processes that lead to storms and flooding. 

Rain and cloud radars

One of the main research tools at Chilbolton is the 25m fully steerable antenna. The high-power 3 GHz CAMRa radar is installed on this antenna and provides high resolution, long range measurements of all types of precipitation such as rain, snow and hail.​

The radar is able to record detailed information about precipitation including type, droplet diameter and shape, and velocity, to a distance of beyond 100 km. Using this information scientists are able to understand the dynamics of different types of weather system.

There are also several higher frequency, continuous operation cloud radars at the observatory, operating at 35 GHz and 94 GHz. Their higher frequency makes them capable of seeing smaller particles, so they are more sensitive to cloud water droplets and ice crystals than the CAMRa radar.

​​Light Detection And Ranging (Lidar)

Lidars operate in a similar way to radars, but are able to detect smaller particles and molecules. Scientists use Chilbolton Observatory's sophisticated lidar instruments to characterise the atmosphere by making detailed measurements of water vapour, cloud and aerosol particles. These measurements are helping to improve the prediction of severe weather, climate change and air quality. They also monitor how the atmosphere impacts upon radio communication systems.

Research helps scientists and meteorologists:

  • understand how clouds form and develop into rain or storm clouds
  • investigate the effects of cloud composition, such as ice particle shape and orientation, on the Earth's energy balance
  • understand the properties and impact of aerosols in the atmosphere

Instruments include:

  • cloud, rain and clear air radar systems
  • Doppler lidar for measuring the boundary layer turbulence in the atmosphere
  • high power UV lidar for measuring aerosol and water vapour profiles
  • radiometers for profiling temperature and water vapour
  • disdrometers for measuring the drop size distribution of rain
  • meterological sensors

In addition to this the Observatory also hosts the LOFAR Radio Telescope, a satellite Groundstation and makes tracking measurements of satellites.


Darcy Ladd - Station Manager at Chilbolton Observatory

Science and Technology Facilities Council
Chilbolton Observatory
Drove Road
Nr Stockbridge
Hampshire SO20 6BJ

For more information please contact: RAL Space Enquiries