Ultralight Sounder: An Airborne System for Studying the Planetary Boundary Layer

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, Colo. 80523
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Until recently, investigations of the temperature structure of the planetary boundary layer have been confined to the use of balloon soundings (tethered balloon sondes, rawinsondes), disposable dropsondes, or high performance instrumented aircraft. These methods can be quite restrictive in their ability to obtain detailed temporal and spatial resolutions, especially in areas of limited accessibility. The operating cost of an instrumented aircraft also may be prohibitive. From this perspective, the use of an ultralight sounder—a meteorological sensor mounted on a motorized glider—is described, and its versatility is discussed. This system was employed in measuring the vertical temperature structure in mountainous terrain during the winter months of 1981–82. The system's capability to obtain detailed vertical temperature structure, as attested by the data gathered, renders it invaluable in the study of the planetary boundary layer in complex mountainous terrain.

Until recently, investigations of the temperature structure of the planetary boundary layer have been confined to the use of balloon soundings (tethered balloon sondes, rawinsondes), disposable dropsondes, or high performance instrumented aircraft. These methods can be quite restrictive in their ability to obtain detailed temporal and spatial resolutions, especially in areas of limited accessibility. The operating cost of an instrumented aircraft also may be prohibitive. From this perspective, the use of an ultralight sounder—a meteorological sensor mounted on a motorized glider—is described, and its versatility is discussed. This system was employed in measuring the vertical temperature structure in mountainous terrain during the winter months of 1981–82. The system's capability to obtain detailed vertical temperature structure, as attested by the data gathered, renders it invaluable in the study of the planetary boundary layer in complex mountainous terrain.

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