Return of the LIDAR: In a Peninsula Far, Far Away, a Laser Shoots Into the Sky

The Light Detection and Ranging instrument, or LIDAR, is a remote sensing technique that uses light to study an object.
Credit: ESA/IPEV/PNRA–S. Thoolen

In a peninsula far, far away, a laser shoots into the sky to study the Antarctic atmosphere at Concordia research station.

The Light Detection and Ranging instrument, or LIDAR, is a remote sensing technique that uses light to study an object.

A pulsed laser beam is aimed at the target and properties of the resulting scattered light are recorded by sensors. Using these measurements, researchers collect information about the atmosphere, including density, temperature, wind speed, cloud formation, and aerosol particles.

LIDAR and SONAR (sonic detection and ranging) instruments help monitor the Atmospheric Boundary Layer, the 1 km thick bottom layer of the troposphere where changes on Earth’s surface strongly influence temperature, moisture, and wind.

These changes to Earth’s surface are largely caused by human activity. Increased greenhouse gas emissions are raising temperatures and the release of chlorofluorocarbons is thinning the ozone layer, particularly in the Polar Regions.

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