Articles | Volume 7, issue 3
Research article
13 Mar 2014
Research article |  | 13 Mar 2014

Retrieval of aerosol backscatter, extinction, and lidar ratio from Raman lidar with optimal estimation

A. C. Povey, R. G. Grainger, D. M. Peters, and J. L. Agnew

Abstract. Optimal estimation retrieval is a form of nonlinear regression which determines the most probable circumstances that produced a given observation, weighted against any prior knowledge of the system. This paper applies the technique to the estimation of aerosol backscatter and extinction (or lidar ratio) from two-channel Raman lidar observations. It produces results from simulated and real data consistent with existing Raman lidar analyses and additionally returns a more rigorous estimate of its uncertainties while automatically selecting an appropriate resolution without the imposition of artificial constraints. Backscatter is retrieved at the instrument's native resolution with an uncertainty between 2 and 20%. Extinction is less well constrained, retrieved at a resolution of 0.1–1 km depending on the quality of the data. The uncertainty in extinction is > 15%, in part due to the consideration of short 1 min integrations, but is comparable to fair estimates of the error when using the standard Raman lidar technique.

The retrieval is then applied to several hours of observation on 19 April 2010 of ash from the Eyjafjallajökull eruption. A depolarising ash layer is found with a lidar ratio of 20–30 sr, much lower values than observed by previous studies. This potentially indicates a growth of the particles after 12–24 h within the planetary boundary layer. A lower concentration of ash within a residual layer exhibited a backscatter of 10 Mm−1 sr−1 and lidar ratio of 40 sr.