Chris Westbrook


Department of Meteorology
University of Reading
Earley Gate
PO Box 243
Reading, RG6 6BB


Tel. 0118 378 5570

I'm interested in the physics of clouds - how water droplets and ice crystals form, how they evolve within clouds, and how they develop into precipitating snowflakes and raindrops.

Click here to see my publications

Research interests:

  • Ice particle scattering

  • Multiwavelength radar measurements of cloud and precipitation

  • Ice formation in supercooled clouds

  • Fall speed of ice crystals, preferred orientation, and the formation of arcs / optical effects
  • Profiling drizzle/warm rain drop size spectra

  • Ice particle vapour deposition / evaporation

  • Small ice crystals and shattering

    Chilbolton Observatory

    A lot of my work involves the Chilbolton Observatory which is home to an incredible range of remote sensing and meteorological instruments, including the world's largest scanning weather radar. Here's a photo of the 25 metre antenna from across the neighbouring fields on a nice summer day:

    We also have 2 cloud radars at Chilbolton, one of which operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can see the latest clouds from this instrument below, along with recent photographs from our sky camera:

    Further quicklooks at Reading radar group website and Chilbolton Weather Web

    Radar basics

    An animation of pulse-to-pulse I,Q signals to illustrate how Doppler radar works

    Some bits and pieces I find useful:

    Maarten Ambaum's Atmospheric Nomogram
    (a diagram which allows you to easily read off the density/saturation vapour pressure/potential temperature for a given air temperature and/or pressure)
    A handy web-based tool to typeset equations produces neatly typeset equations (via latex) as images which you can use in presentations etc
    Overleaf: a web-based latex editor which you can use to work on papers with collaborators etc
    Some handy notes on scientific computing and atmospheric physics from Ross Bannister.

    A quote attributed to Reginald Sutcliff (the founder of our department), which I quite like:
    Throughout much of the history of science and indeed all philosophy, there has been a dichotomy between the pursuit of learning and the pursuit of human welfare, between what is interesting and what is useful... There are fashions in these things and at the present time the pressure seems to be towards utility. This is paradoxical in a society which is becoming ever more affluent, with its leisure undeniably and steadily increasing, but is surely a side effect, probably only temporary, of the imbalance of rapid growth. Fortunately the dichotomy does not go very deep, for it is difficult to find either useful knowledge which is not interesting, or interesting knowledge which is not at least potentially useful.

    Activity in academic community etc

    I organised this Royal Meteorological Society national meeting on radar meteorology (audio & slides of presentations available through the link).
    Speakers included Alan Blyth, Robin Hogan, Jacqueline Sugier, Geraint Vaughan, John Marsham and Ewan O'Connor.

    See publications page for list of talks, conferences etc.

    I help edit the Royal Meteorological Society journal Atmospheric Science Letters

    I have refereed work for publication in:

    Blog posts
    Post on snow crystals for BBC's '23 degrees' series
    Post on observing ice clouds using radar and lidar for BBC's '23 degrees' series
    Post on Parry arc for Department's Weather and Climate Discussion blog

    Latest forecast for Chilbolton:

    This Weather Widget is provided by the Met Office