Ultra-compact Laser Ceilometer for Boundary Layer and Cloud Height Retrievals

Physical Sciences Inc. (PSI) has been awarded a research contract from the Department of Energy to demonstrate a highly compact, automated, low power ceilometer to make retrievals of cloud base and boundary layer heights from remote unattended sites.

The advent of sensor networks to gather atmospheric data for weather and climate prediction on large spatial and temporal scales is crucial to the advancement of our understanding of many important processes that make up such predictive models. The height of the atmospheric boundary layer, for example, is used to parameterize boundary layer transport in numerical weather prediction models and boundary layer effects related to fluxes and concentrations of trace gases in inversion models. Increased knowledge of boundary layer structure drives the desire to add the capability to monitor this height to networks.

PSI’s ceilometer incorporates a fiber laser and uses state-of-the-art techniques for environmental stability. The design was developed for a compact, automated laser ceilometer that can retrieve both cloud base heights and the height of the atmospheric boundary layer and that will be deployable year round at AmeriFlux network tower sites.

PSI’s compact laser ceilometer will enable measurements of boundary layer and cloud base heights on a wider scale and at higher frequencies than are possible now when deployed at long-term measurement sites. Such measurements are fundamental to improving our understanding of the complex couplings between the surface and lower atmosphere and will ultimately help to evolve models used in both weather forecasting and climate change prediction. The sensor is adaptable to deployment in other weather networks, such as the Automated Surface Observing System and other national and state mesonets, where sensor robustness and size are critical to performance.

For more information, contact:

Dr. David Sonnenfroh
Area Manager, Atmospheric Sciences

Physical Sciences Inc.
Telephone: (978) 689-0003