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 (DOE) to demonstrate a compact ceilometer for operation at remote unattended sites. PSI’s ceilometer incorporates a fiber laser and uses state-of-the-art techniques for ruggedization and stability in environmental extremes.

The advent of sensor networks to gather atmospheric data for weather and climate predictions on large spatial and temporal scales is crucial to the advancement of our understanding of many important processes that make up 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 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.

Field data obtained using PSI’s compact ceilometer for monitoring boundary layer and cloud ceilings developed in this program can be used to decrease the uncertainties that still remain. PSI previously developed a design for a compact ceilometer that will be deployable year-round at unattended network sites and two engineering prototypes were fabricated. During this effort, this technology will be fully matured and create an advanced pre-production prototype.

PSI’s compact ceilometer will enable measurements of boundary layer heights and cloud ceilings 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 evolve models used in both weather forecasting and climate change prediction. The sensor is adaptable to deployment at untowered airports to provide improved weather data to general aviation pilots.

For more information, contact:

Dr. David Sonnenfroh
Area Manager, Atmospheric Sciences

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