Articles | Volume 10, issue 12
Research article
05 Dec 2017
Research article |  | 05 Dec 2017

Development and application of a backscatter lidar forward operator for quantitative validation of aerosol dispersion models and future data assimilation

Armin Geisinger, Andreas Behrendt, Volker Wulfmeyer, Jens Strohbach, Jochen Förstner, and Roland Potthast

Abstract. A new backscatter lidar forward operator was developed which is based on the distinct calculation of the aerosols' backscatter and extinction properties. The forward operator was adapted to the COSMO-ART ash dispersion simulation of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010. While the particle number concentration was provided as a model output variable, the scattering properties of each individual particle type were determined by dedicated scattering calculations. Sensitivity studies were performed to estimate the uncertainties related to the assumed particle properties. Scattering calculations for several types of non-spherical particles required the usage of T-matrix routines. Due to the distinct calculation of the backscatter and extinction properties of the models' volcanic ash size classes, the sensitivity studies could be made for each size class individually, which is not the case for forward models based on a fixed lidar ratio. Finally, the forward-modeled lidar profiles have been compared to automated ceilometer lidar (ACL) measurements both qualitatively and quantitatively while the attenuated backscatter coefficient was chosen as a suitable physical quantity. As the ACL measurements were not calibrated automatically, their calibration had to be performed using satellite lidar and ground-based Raman lidar measurements. A slight overestimation of the model-predicted volcanic ash number density was observed. Major requirements for future data assimilation of data from ACL have been identified, namely, the availability of calibrated lidar measurement data, a scattering database for atmospheric aerosols, a better representation and coverage of aerosols by the ash dispersion model, and more investigation in backscatter lidar forward operators which calculate the backscatter coefficient directly for each individual aerosol type. The introduced forward operator offers the flexibility to be adapted to a multitude of model systems and measurement setups.

Short summary
A new backscatter lidar forward operator for an aerosol-chemistry-transport model is presented which allows for a quantitative comparison of model output and backscatter lidar measurements from existing networks with unprecedented detail. By applying the forward operator, aerosol distribution model simulations of the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption could be compared both quantitatively and qualitatively to measurements of the automated ceilometer lidar network in Germany.