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Volume Imaging Lidar (VIL)


The Volume Imaging Lidar (VIL) is an elastic aerosol backscatter lidar designed to image the four-dimensional structure of the atmosphere [1]. Figure 1 shows a block diagram of the system.

Figure 1: VIL Schematic Dec. 1995.

The transmitter employs a pulsed Nd:YAG laser. The receiver consists of a telescope, interference filter, and avalanche photo diode. Scanning is performed using a fast, computer controlled beam steering unit consisting of two flat rotating mirrors mounted at 45 angles on the optical axis of the transmitter-receiver system. Realtime control and data acquisition are controlled by an Intel i960 microcontroller on VME bus. An interactive user interface and graphical real time displays are perfomed using Silicon Graphics Indigo II workstation. The system is mounted in a semi-trailer, that has a water chiller and air conditioning to provide an adequate environment for the lidar and electronics. Only an external AC-power source is required for a full field operation. Table 1 summarizes the system specifications during the FIFE program.

Table 1: VIL Specifications

The high sensitivity of the VIL allows observations of inhomogeneities in the natural aerosol backscatter. The signal incident on the receiver is described by the single-scatter lidar equation [2,3]


The dynamic range of the digitized signal is increased by amplifying the detected signal with a logarithmic amplifier. The data acquisition system has a 10 MHz sampling rate and a 12-bit digitizing resolution. Each backscatter profile is energy-normalized to compensate the output energy variations of the laser and corrected for inverse range-squared dependence. This signal is expressed as


Finally, the signal is saved in a compressed form on an optical disk for later analysis [1]. Since molecular absorption is small compared to aerosol extinction at the 1064 nm operation wavelength, the measurement range depends mainly on the aerosol distribution and range-squared dependence of the detected backscatter. The high laser power, large telescope area, and wide dynamic range of the receiver enable detection of cirrus clouds up to 100 km from the lidar, and boundary layer aerosols up to 30 km in a clear atmosphere. Although the VIL can scan the whole sky, special scanning patterns are used for different atmospheric studies. For boundary layer studies, the VIL usually scans a 40 azimuthal sector and 15 elevational angle range. Typically, this scan employes a 15 m radial, 0.5 azimuth, and 0.33 elevation angle resolution. Figure 2 illustrates a typical boundary layer volume scan pattern. The VIL devotes about 3 minutes to record approximately five million data points in this 100km volume.

Figure 2: A VIL boundary-layer scan. The graph on the top shows a Range Height Indicator plane calculated from the backscatter profiles of one elevational sweep; the brighter areas indicate increased scattering from boundary layer aerosols.


Eloranta, E.W. and D.K. Forrest, ``Volume Imaging Lidar observations of the convective structure surrounding the flight path of a flux-measuring aircraft,'' J. Geophys. Res., 97, D17, 18383--18393 (1992).

Schols, J.L. and E.W. Eloranta, ``The calculation of area-averaged vertical profiles of the horizontal wind velocity from Volume Imaging Lidar data,'' J. Geophys. Res., 97, D17, 18395--18407 (1992).

Collis, R.T.H. and P.B. Russell, ``Lidar measurement of particles and gases by elastic backscattering and differential absorption,'' in Topics in Applied Physics: Laser Monitoring of the Atmosphere, edited by E.D. Hinkley, Springer, New York, 71--151 (1976).

Piironen, A.K., and E.W. Eloranta, ``An accuracy analysis of the wind profiles calculated from Volume Imaging Lidar data,'' J. Geophys. Res. -- Atmospheres, Vol. 100, D12, 25559-25567, 1995.

Piironen, A.K., and E.W. Eloranta, ``Convective boundary layer mean depths, cloud base altitudes, cloud top altitudes, cloud coverages, and cloud shadows obtained from Volume Imaging Lidar data,'' J. Geophys. Res. -- Atmospheres, Vol. 100, D12, 25569-25576, 1995.

Young, P. and E. W. Eloranta, "Calculation of divergence and vertical motion from volume-imaging lidar data", J. Geophys. Res. -- Atmospheres, Vol. 100, D12, 25577-25583, 1995.

Check our publications for more information on VIL.

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Antti Piironen
Mon Apr 8 09:40:43 CDT 1996