85th AMS Annual Meeting

Monday, 10 January 2005: 10:45 AM
The Potential of Wide Angle Imaging Lidar (WAIL)
Igor N. Polonsky, LANL, Los Alamos, NM; and A. B. Davis and S. P. Love
WAIL was designed to determine physical and geometrical characteristics of optically thick clouds using the off-beam component of the lidar return that can be accurately modeled within the 3D photon diffusion approximation. The theory shows that the WAIL signal depends not only on the cloud optical characteristics (phase function, extinction and scattering coefficients) but also on the outer thickness of the cloud layer. This makes it possible to estimate the mean optical and geometrical thicknesses of the cloud. The comparison with Monte Carlo simulation demonstrates the high accuracy of the diffusion approximation for moderately to very dense clouds.

Additionally to the off-beam component which can be evaluated using the diffusion approximation framework, the WAIL also measures the contribution of the low order scattering. The small angle approximation can be used to model the WAIL signal at not large time moments and at near probing laser beam area. Within the small angle approximation range of applicability it can be established one-by-one correspondence between the WAIL signal and geometrical altitude at which the backscattering event has occurred. This technique provides one with the potential to retrieve the stratification characteristics of aerosol layer situated between the lidar and cloud.

During operation WAIL is able to collect a complete data set from a cloud every few minutes, with averaging over horizontal scale of a kilometer or so. In order to validate WAIL's ability to deliver cloud properties, the LANL instrument was deployed to probe clouds above the SGP CART site at night in March 2002.

The permanent cloud instruments we used to compare with the results obtained from WAIL were ARM's laser ceilometer, micro-pulse lidar (MPL), millimeter-wavelength cloud radar (MMCR), and micro-wave radiometer (MWR). The comparison shows that, in spite of an unusually low cloud ceiling, an unfavorable observation condition for WAIL's present configuration, cloud properties obtained from the new instrument are in good agreement with their counterparts obtained by other instruments. So WAIL can duplicate, at least for single-layer clouds, the cloud products of the MWR and MMCR together. But WAIL does this with green laser light, which is far more representative than microwaves of photon transport processes at work in the climate system.

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