Environmental Sciences Western Field StationWestern Science

Atmospheric studies with radar and lidar

ESW also is home to 2 atmospheric/space radars and a lidar (laser radar).  One is called a "windprofiler radar" and measures atmospheric winds on a time-scale of minutes from 1 km altitude to about 10 km altitude. The other is a radar for measuring meteors as they enter the atmosphere. This information is useful for studying "space dust" (the origin of meteors) and therefore relates to fundamental knowledge about the formation of the solar system.  The radar measurements also allow determination of the "weather" at the heights that the meteors burn up (80 to 100 km altitude), which provides important information for future spacecraft.

Both of these radars served as prototypes for development of larger networks of radars - the windprofiler led to new radars at Resolute Bay and Eureka in the far Arctic, plus a network of radars called the O-QNet which supplies data every hour to Environment Canada, The United Kingdom Bureau of Meteorology, the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the USA. These data are used in producing optimum forecasts for the general public. 

The meteor radar served as the prototype for a chain if radars stretching through North and South America and into Antarctica (almost form pole to pole).  Data are updated every 4 hours.

The combined information from these radars gives a global picture of "weather" at the edge of space, and has been used to support Space shuttle missions.