The multiwavelength Raman lidar technique in combination with sophisticated inversion algorithms has been recognized as a new tool for deriving information about the microphysical properties of atmospheric aerosols. The input optical parameter sets, provided by respective aerosol Raman lidars, are at the theoretical lower limit at which these inversion algorithms work properly. For that reason there is ongoing intense discussion of the accuracy of these inversion methods and the possibility of simultaneous retrieval of the particle size distribution and the complex refractive index. We present results of the eigenvalue analysis, used to study the information content of multiwavelength lidar data with respect to microphysical particle properties. Such an analysis provides, on a rather mathematical basis, more insight into the limitations of these inversion algorithms regarding the accuracy of the retrieved parameters. We show that the effective radius may be retrieved to 50% accuracy and the real and imaginary part of the complex refractive index to ±0.05 and ±0.005i, if the imaginary part is <0.02i. These results are in accordance with the classic approach of simulation studies with synthetic particle size distributions. Major difficulties are found with a particle effective radius of <0.15 μm. In that case the complex refractive index may not be derived with sufficient accuracy. The eigenvalue analysis also shows that the accuracy of the derived parameters degrades if the imaginary part is >0.02i. Furthermore it shows the importance of the simultaneous use of backscatter and extinction coefficients for the retrieval of microphysical parameters.
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