Remote detection of gaseous pollutants and other atmospheric constituents can be achieved with differential absorption lidar (DIAL) methods. The technique relies on the transmission of two or more laser wavelengths and exploits absorption features in the target gas by measuring the ratio of their detected powers to determine gas concentration. A common mode of operation is when the transmitter and receiver are collocated, and the absorption is measured over a return trip by a randomly scattering topographic target. Hence, in coherent DIAL, speckle fluctuation leads to a large uncertainty in the detected powers unless the signal is averaged over multiple correlation times, i.e., over many independent speckles. We examine a continuous-wave coherent DIAL system in which the laser wavelengths are transmitted and received by the same single-mode optical fibers. This ensures that the two wavelengths share a common spatial mode, which, for certain transmitter and target parameters, enables highly correlated speckle fluctuations to be readily achieved in practice. For a DIAL system, this gives the potential for improved accuracy in a given observation time. A theoretical analysis quantifies this benefit as a function of the degree of correlation between the two time series (which depends on wavelength separation and target depth). The results are compared with both a numerical simulation and a laboratory-based experiment.
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