Articles | Volume 9, issue 4
Research article
18 Apr 2016
Research article |  | 18 Apr 2016

3-D water vapor field in the atmospheric boundary layer observed with scanning differential absorption lidar

Florian Späth, Andreas Behrendt, Shravan Kumar Muppa, Simon Metzendorf, Andrea Riede, and Volker Wulfmeyer

Abstract. High-resolution three-dimensional (3-D) water vapor data of the atmospheric boundary layer (ABL) are required to improve our understanding of land–atmosphere exchange processes. For this purpose, the scanning differential absorption lidar (DIAL) of the University of Hohenheim (UHOH) was developed as well as new analysis tools and visualization methods. The instrument determines 3-D fields of the atmospheric water vapor number density with a temporal resolution of a few seconds and a spatial resolution of up to a few tens of meters. We present three case studies from two field campaigns. In spring 2013, the UHOH DIAL was operated within the scope of the HD(CP)2 Observational Prototype Experiment (HOPE) in western Germany. HD(CP)2 stands for High Definition of Clouds and Precipitation for advancing Climate Prediction and is a German research initiative. Range–height indicator (RHI) scans of the UHOH DIAL show the water vapor heterogeneity within a range of a few kilometers up to an altitude of 2 km and its impact on the formation of clouds at the top of the ABL. The uncertainty of the measured data was assessed for the first time by extending a technique to scanning data, which was formerly applied to vertical time series. Typically, the accuracy of the DIAL measurements is between 0.5 and 0.8 g m−3 (or < 6 %) within the ABL even during daytime. This allows for performing a RHI scan from the surface to an elevation angle of 90° within 10 min. In summer 2014, the UHOH DIAL participated in the Surface Atmosphere Boundary Layer Exchange (SABLE) campaign in southwestern Germany. Conical volume scans were made which reveal multiple water vapor layers in three dimensions. Differences in their heights in different directions can be attributed to different surface elevation. With low-elevation scans in the surface layer, the humidity profiles and gradients can be related to different land cover such as maize, grassland, and forest as well as different surface layer stabilities.

Short summary
The scanning differential absorption lidar (DIAL) of the University of Hohenheim measures water vapor with high temporal and spatial resolutions. In this paper, DIAL measurements of three different scan modes are presented which allow for new insights into the three-dimensional water vapor structure in the atmospheric boundary layer (ABL). A new method to determine the noise level of scanning measurements was developed, showing uncertainties of < 7 % within the ABL.