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Our weatherman Aidan takes a very close look at clouds

Aidan with the research plane

In the latest in his series Clearing the Air, ITV Anglia weatherman Aidan McGivern has been taking a close look at clouds.

He's even been flying fifty feet above the North Sea - in a bid to explain how clouds are formed....

Aidan writes:

Even in the middle of summer, clouds are a familiar sight in the skies above the UK. But the tiny particles that cause clouds to grow and decay are much more difficult to observe. In fact, the best way to study them is to take to the skies and journey to the heart of the clouds

Flying 50 feet above the sea

Cranfield Airport in Bedfordshire is the home for the Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements (FAAM). Using one of the most advanced research aircrafts in the world, Scientists from the Met Office and the Natural Environment Research Council study everything from the physics of the clouds to the chemistry of the sky.

Inside the research plane
Met Office experts

In July, I took to the skies with atmospheric scientists from across the UK for an instrument test flight ahead of a research mission to the tropics. This summer, they are investigating the moment when water droplets in clouds freeze and how this impacts the development of the cloud.

Ten facts about clouds

  1. Other planets in our Solar System have clouds. The clouds on Venus are made of sulphur dioxide whilst Jupiter and Saturn have clouds of ammonia.

  2. In 1803, Luke Howard used Latin words to classify the clouds into nine main types. These included Cirrus \(wisps\), Stratus \(a layer\) and Cumulus \(a heap\).

  3. The average thickness of a cloud droplet is 0.02mm in diameter. This is around five times smaller than the thickness of a sheet of paper.

  4. The sunniest city in the world is officially Yuma in Arizona with over 4000 hours of sunshine each year, which amounts to around 91% of the time.

  5. The cloudiest parts of the world are found close to the poles and the cloudiest city on the planet is thought to be Chengdu in China, which has just 1100 hours of sunshine each year.

  6. Clouds are good omans in Iran. They have a saying for when someone is blessed with good luck: “dayem semakum ghaim”. This translates as "your sky is always filled with clouds"

  7. Clouds are very heavy. A small cumulus cloud might typically weigh as much as two elephants.

  8. In 1959 Lieutenant\-Colonel William Rankin, a pilot in the US Air Force, was ejected from his plane and into a cumulonimbus thunderstorm cloud. He spent half an hour trapped in the cloud, thrown around by the up and downdrafts and pelted with hail. Amazingly, he survived the ordeal.

  9. Most clouds form in the lower part of the atmosphere called the Troposphere. Occasionally, clouds can form in the Stratosphere, which is the layer above the Troposphere. These are called Nacreous clouds.

  10. Only 1% of rain outside of the tropics comes from ice-free clouds.

Concern for missing schoolgirl

Bedfordshire Police appeal for Hafsa

Bedfordshire Police say concerns are growing for a missing 15-year-old girl from Luton

The last possible sighting of Hafsa Taranbi, was near to her home address on Wednesday 22 July. It is believed she could be in the London area.

She is described as around 5’6” tall, medium build with shoulder length black hair. She usually wears a black head scarf.

Thousands of students collect their GCSE results


Thousands of students in the ITV Anglia region have received their GCSE results today. Official figures show the proportion of GCSEs awarded at least a C grade has risen again this year, but it's the fourth year in a row that top grades have fallen.

Our cameras were at the Ormiston Venture Academy at Gorleston in Norfolk when the results were handed out this morning. It became an academy in 2010 and was formerly Oriel High School.

These GCSE students are the first who've been all the way through the Academy and their results are the best ever. 61 per cent in maths and English A to C grades. An improvement of 18 per cent on last year.

They are particularly pleased because this is a school in an area of high social deprivation. Here are some pictures as the results were handed out:


GCSE results at the King Edward V1 School in Bury St Edmunds results are up 8% on last year's.


Here is Malcolm Robertson's report for the east of the ITV Anglia region..

And Sarah Cooper has been taking a look at the results in the west of the region...


Safe broken into

Police are appealing for information after a safe was broken into at an address in Meppershall in Bedfordshire.

It happened between 1pm on Friday (14 August) and 8am on Tuesday (18 August) at the property in Shefford Road.

A large quantity of money was stolen from the safe as well as a gold watch and a gold-coloured necklace which had a medical pendant attached to it.

Hospice garden given Alan Titchmarsh makeover is 'fantastic'

The new garden at Keech Hospice in Luton. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Staff at Keech Hospice in Luton say a garden given a make-over by Alan Titchmarsh has become treasured by patients and visitors.

The wildlife garden featured in Love Your Garden, which aired on ITV last night. Since the make-over it has been cared for by a small army of green-fingered volunteers.

Juliette Benson, a staff nurse at Keech Hospice, said: "It's absolutely fantastic. It's given us another dimension to a really incredible space.

"Certainly from the patients' perspective, having the water there as an additional feature is lovely."

Click below for Juliette's comments.

Businesses attracted to Dunstable's growing economy

After several decades of decline it seems one of our region's towns is making a rapid recovery.

Dunstable in Bedfordshire has already seen the opening of a guided busway and is about to get a new northern bypass - improvements which have not gone unnoticed by businesses.

Hundreds of new jobs have been created as companies take advantage of its location just off the M1.

Click below for Russell Hookey's report.

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