Abstract

The NASA Langley airborne second-generation High Spectral Resolution Lidar (HSRL-2) uses a density-tuned field-widened Michelson interferometer to implement the HSRL technique at 355 nm. The Michelson interferometer optically separates the received backscattered light between two channels, one of which is dominated by molecular backscattering, while the other contains most of the light backscattered by particles. This interferometer achieves high and stable contrast ratio, defined as the ratio of particulate backscatter signal received by the two channels. We show that a high and stable contrast ratio is critical for precise and accurate backscatter and extinction retrievals. Here, we present retrieval equations that take into account the incomplete separation of particulate and molecular backscatter in the measurement channels. We also show how the accuracy of the contrast ratio assessment propagates to error in the optical properties. For both backscattering and extinction, larger errors are produced by underestimates of the contrast ratio (compared to overestimates), more extreme aerosol loading, and—most critically—smaller true contrast ratios. We show example results from HSRL-2 aboard the NASA ER-2 aircraft from the 2016 ORACLES field campaign in the southeast Atlantic, off the coast of Africa, during the biomass burning season. We include a case study where smoke aerosol in two adjacent altitude layers showed opposite differences in extinction- and backscatter-related Ångström exponents and a reversal of the lidar ratio spectral dependence, signatures which are shown to be consistent with a relatively modest difference in smoke particle size.

© 2018 Optical Society of America

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