An airborne differential absorption lidar (DIAL) system has been developed at the NASA Langley Research Center for remote measurements of atmospheric water vapor (H2O) and aerosols. A solid-state alexandrite laser with a 1-pm linewidth and greater than 99.85% spectral purity was used as the on-line transmitter. Solid-state avalanche photodiode detector technology has replaced photomultiplier tubes in the receiver system, providing an average increase by a factor of 1.5-2.5 in the signal-to-noise ratio of the H2O measurement. By incorporating advanced diagnostic and data-acquisition instrumentation into other subsystems, we achieved additional improvements in system operational reliability and measurement accuracy. Laboratory spectroscopic measurements of H2O absorption-line parameters were performed to reduce the uncertainties in our knowledge of the absorption cross sections. Line-center H2O absorption cross sections were determined, with errors of 3-6%, for more than 120 lines in the 720-nm region. Flight tests of the system were conducted during 1989-1991 on the NASA Wallops Flight Facility Electra aircraft, and extensive intercomparison measurements were performed with dew-point hygrometers and H2O radiosondes. The H2O distributions measured with the DIAL system differed by less than 10% from the profiles determined with the in situ probes in a variety of atmospheric conditions.
Meteorology and Climatology