Recommendations for processing atmospheric attenuated backscatter profiles from Vaisala CL31 ceilometers
Abstract. Ceilometer lidars are used for cloud base height detection, to probe aerosol layers in the atmosphere (e.g. detection of elevated layers of Saharan dust or volcanic ash), and to examine boundary layer dynamics. Sensor optics and acquisition algorithms can strongly influence the observed attenuated backscatter profiles; therefore, physical interpretation of the profiles requires careful application of corrections. This study addresses the widely deployed Vaisala CL31 ceilometer. Attenuated backscatter profiles are studied to evaluate the impact of both the hardware generation and firmware version. In response to this work and discussion within the CL31/TOPROF user community (TOPROF, European COST Action aiming to harmonise ground-based remote sensing networks across Europe), Vaisala released new firmware (versions 1.72 and 2.03) for the CL31 sensors. These firmware versions are tested against previous versions, showing that several artificial features introduced by the data processing have been removed. Hence, it is recommended to use this recent firmware for analysing attenuated backscatter profiles. To allow for consistent processing of historic data, correction procedures have been developed that account for artefacts detected in data collected with older firmware. Furthermore, a procedure is proposed to determine and account for the instrument-related background signal from electronic and optical components. This is necessary for using attenuated backscatter observations from any CL31 ceilometer. Recommendations are made for the processing of attenuated backscatter observed with Vaisala CL31 sensors, including the estimation of noise which is not provided in the standard CL31 output. After taking these aspects into account, attenuated backscatter profiles from Vaisala CL31 ceilometers are considered capable of providing valuable information for a range of applications including atmospheric boundary layer studies, detection of elevated aerosol layers, and model verification.