Articles | Volume 6, issue 3
Research article
26 Mar 2013
Research article |  | 26 Mar 2013

Developing a portable, autonomous aerosol backscatter lidar for network or remote operations

K. B. Strawbridge

Abstract. Lidar has the ability to detect the complex vertical structure of the atmosphere and can therefore identify the existence and extent of aerosols with high spatial and temporal resolution, making it well suited for understanding atmospheric dynamics and transport processes. Environment Canada has developed a portable, autonomous lidar system that can be monitored remotely and operated continuously except during precipitation events. The lidar, housed in a small trailer, simultaneously emits two wavelengths of laser light (1064 nm and 532 nm) at energies of approximately 150 mJ/pulse/wavelength and detects the backscatter signal at 1064 nm and both polarizations at 532 nm. For laser energies of this magnitude, the challenge resides in designing a system that meets the airspace safety requirements for autonomous operations. Through the combination of radar technology, beam divergence, laser cavity interlocks and using computer log files, this risk was mitigated. A Continuum Inlite small footprint laser is the backbone of the system because of three design criteria: requiring infrequent flash lamp changes compared to previous Nd : YAG Q-switch lasers, complete software control capability and a built-in laser energy monitoring system. A computer-controlled interface was designed to monitor the health of the system, adjust operational parameters and maintain a climate-controlled environment. Through an Internet connection, it also transmitted the vital performance indicators and data stream to allow the lidar profile data for multiple instruments from near ground to 15 km, every 10 s, to be viewed, in near real-time via a website. The details of the system design and calibration will be discussed and the success of the instrument as tested within the framework of a national lidar network dubbed CORALNet (Canadian Operational Research Aerosol Lidar Network). In addition, the transport of a forest fire plume across the country will be shown as evidenced by the lidar network, HYSPLIT back trajectories, MODIS imagery and CALIPSO overpasses.