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A Characterization of Cirrus Cloud Properties That Affect Laser Propagation

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  • 1 Battlespace Environment Division, Space Vehicles Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory, Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts
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Abstract

Future high-altitude laser systems may be affected by cirrus clouds. Laser transmission models were applied to measured and retrieved cirrus properties to determine cirrus impact on power incident on a target or receiver. A major goal was to see how well radiosondes and geostationary satellite imagery could specify the required properties. Based on the use of ground-based radar and lidar measurements as a reference, errors in cirrus-top and cirrus-base height estimates from radiosonde observations were 20%–25% of geostationary satellite retrieval errors. Radiosondes had a perfect cirrus detection rate as compared with 80% for satellite detection. Ice water path and effective particle size were obtained with a published radar–lidar retrieval algorithm and a documented satellite algorithm. Radar–lidar particle size and ice water path were 1.5 and 3 times the satellite retrievals, respectively. Radar–lidar-based laser extinction coefficients were 55% greater than satellite values. Measured radar–lidar cirrus thickness was consistently greater than satellite-retrieved thickness, but radar–lidar microphysical retrieval required detection by both sensors at each range gate, which limited the retrievals’ vertical extent. Greater radar–lidar extinction and greater satellite-based cirrus thickness yielded comparable optical depths for the two independent retrievals. Laser extinction–transmission models applied to radiosonde-retrieved cirrus heights and satellite-retrieved microphysical properties revealed a significant power loss by all models as the laser beam transits the cirrus layer. This suggests that cirrus location is more important than microphysics in high-altitude laser test support. Geostationary satellite imagery may be insufficient in cirrus detection and retrieval accuracy. Humidity-sensitive radiosondes are a potential proxy for ground-based remote sensors in cirrus detection and altitude determination.

Corresponding author address: Donald C. Norquist, AFRL/RVBXS, 29 Randolph Rd., Hanscom AFB, MA 01731-3010. Email: AFRL.RVB.PA@hanscom.af.mil

Abstract

Future high-altitude laser systems may be affected by cirrus clouds. Laser transmission models were applied to measured and retrieved cirrus properties to determine cirrus impact on power incident on a target or receiver. A major goal was to see how well radiosondes and geostationary satellite imagery could specify the required properties. Based on the use of ground-based radar and lidar measurements as a reference, errors in cirrus-top and cirrus-base height estimates from radiosonde observations were 20%–25% of geostationary satellite retrieval errors. Radiosondes had a perfect cirrus detection rate as compared with 80% for satellite detection. Ice water path and effective particle size were obtained with a published radar–lidar retrieval algorithm and a documented satellite algorithm. Radar–lidar particle size and ice water path were 1.5 and 3 times the satellite retrievals, respectively. Radar–lidar-based laser extinction coefficients were 55% greater than satellite values. Measured radar–lidar cirrus thickness was consistently greater than satellite-retrieved thickness, but radar–lidar microphysical retrieval required detection by both sensors at each range gate, which limited the retrievals’ vertical extent. Greater radar–lidar extinction and greater satellite-based cirrus thickness yielded comparable optical depths for the two independent retrievals. Laser extinction–transmission models applied to radiosonde-retrieved cirrus heights and satellite-retrieved microphysical properties revealed a significant power loss by all models as the laser beam transits the cirrus layer. This suggests that cirrus location is more important than microphysics in high-altitude laser test support. Geostationary satellite imagery may be insufficient in cirrus detection and retrieval accuracy. Humidity-sensitive radiosondes are a potential proxy for ground-based remote sensors in cirrus detection and altitude determination.

Corresponding author address: Donald C. Norquist, AFRL/RVBXS, 29 Randolph Rd., Hanscom AFB, MA 01731-3010. Email: AFRL.RVB.PA@hanscom.af.mil

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