The NASA Langley airborne High Spectral Resolution Lidar (HSRL) is used to characterize
clouds and small particles in the atmosphere, called aerosols. From an airborne platform, the HSRL scientist
team studies aerosol size, composition, distribution and movement.
The HSRL instrument is an innovative technology that is similar to radar; however, with lidar, radio waves are
replaced with laser light. Lidar allows researchers to see the vertical dimension of the atmosphere, and the
advanced HSRL makes measurements that can even distinguish among different aerosol types and their
sources. The HSRL technique takes advantage of the spectral distribution of the lidar return signal to
discriminate aerosol and molecular signals and thereby measure aerosol extinction and backscatter
independently. It measures aerosol backscatter and depolarization at 532 and 1064 nm and aerosol extinction
at 532 nm.
Unfortunately, scientists still don't know exactly how aerosols interact in our atmosphere and affect our weather
and climate systems. However, the degree to which aerosols effect the movement of heat in our atmosphere is
strongly dependent on their vertical distribution, making HSRL a key component in our understanding of
Earth's changing climate.
HSRL Deployed in NASA Langley King Air B200
HSRL is compact and robust -- designed to be flown on small aircraft like the NASA Langley King Air B200 or
LearJet. HSRL is primarily flown on field missions used to validate measurements made by the CALIPSO
spaceborne lidar as well as aerosol retrievals from satellite-based passive sensors. It is also used in
campaigns focused on regional process studies and the validation of chemical transport models. Information
on recent instrument deployments as well as data browse images can be found in the "Field Campaigns"