NERC research ship and aircraft photographed together for the first time ahead of Into the blue

6 September 2016

Today, NERC releases exclusive images of two of the world's key scientific instruments taking part in a training mission ahead of going on public display at Into the blue, an interactive celebration of science taking place in Liverpool and Manchester next month.

FAAM research aircraft flying by RRS Discovery

FAAM research aircraft flying by RRS Discovery

NERC is a world-leading science organisation, funding cutting-edge research around the globe. To do this we use some of the most advanced technology in the field.

For the first time, our 100m-long research ship, RRS Discovery, and our Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements (FAAM) research aircraft have been photographed together. These precision instruments enable scientists to conduct research that affects our everyday lives: expanding our understanding of the environment, informing policy and helping us solve some of the biggest environmental issues facing us, such as air pollution, flooding and extreme weather.

Environmental science touches us all: we depend on it for clean water, food on our plates and fresh air - it's the science we live and breathe. Into the blue is a celebration of this science and a unique opportunity for the public to see, first hand, the work of UK environmental scientists in our skies and seas.

Nine days of events will feature exhibitions, presentations, debates and hands-on science demos by real scientists. The centre-piece of Into the blue will be the chance to explore RRS Discovery, docked in Liverpool from 4-7 October and the FAAM aircraft at Manchester Airport from 25-29 October.

NERC Into the blue logo: science we live and breathe
  • Explore the UK's most advanced scientific instruments
  • The environmental science that touches us all: water, food and air

The specially adapted BAe 146-301 aircraft is the UK's front line for investigating air pollution, weather patterns and cloud formations. In October the FAAM team will be 'storm chasing' across the UK - flying into violent low-pressure systems to further our understanding of high intensity rain storms, which are associated with climate change.

The 100m-long RRS Discovery is one of the world's most advanced research vessels, providing UK marine scientists with a platform for world-leading oceanographic research. The ship's science team will be using a variety of sonar instruments to survey the seabed en route to its appointment with the public in Liverpool.

The accompanying images show both in a recent training exercise, with FAAM flying 50ft (15m) above sea level gathering low altitude samples, rendezvousing with RRS Discovery which was on route to Hull and conducting sea trials.

RRS Discovery and FAAM will next work together on a major five-year project to detect, explain and predict changes in ocean and atmosphere temperatures and circulation, in sea ice thickness and extent, and in key atmospheric constituents such as ozone, methane and aerosols in the North Atlantic.

Changes in the North Atlantic directly affect the UK's climate, weather and air quality, with major economic effects on agriculture, fisheries, water, energy, transport and health. The North Atlantic also has global importance, because changes here drive changes in climate, hazardous weather and air quality further afield, in places such as North America, Africa and Asia.

The study, called the North Atlantic Climate System Integrated Study (ACSIS), will run until 2021.

Further information

Tamera Jones
NERC media office
01793 411561


1. NERC's Into the blue - external link - showcase, is a series of events in northwest England throughout October 2016, which celebrate the environmental science we live and breathe.

2. NERC is the UK's main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. Our work covers the full range of atmospheric, Earth, biological, terrestrial and aquatic science, from the deep oceans to the upper atmosphere and from the poles to the equator. We coordinate some of the world's most exciting research projects, tackling major issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on Earth, and much more. NERC is a non-departmental public body. We receive around £330 million of annual funding from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Research aircraft flying low over the sea past the research ship

The FAAM aircraft gathering low altitude samples

Research aircraft above the research ship

One final pass of the RRS Discovery