New CORAL system: A new high-powered lidar system for measuring at the edge of a cloud

Photo: Lukas Frank, MPI-M

After a three year development, the new lidar component of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology (MPI-M) CORAL (Cloud-Observing Radar and Lidar) sent its first light during ground tests in Hamburg last month. 

With a target of a few seconds and few meters resolution, CORAL will allow scientists to observe the fine air structure in the vicinity of cloud edges. By using CORAL measurements to quantify the thermodynamic properties at the edge of a cloud, scientists at the MPI-M hope to better understand how clouds mix with their environment. This information is crucial for understanding their eventual development, and their response to climate change. In a warmer climate relative humidity differences imply larger absolute humidity differences which, depending on how clouds mix, could influence their development. The manner in which clouds mix with their dry environment is also believed to be important for their microphysical development, which influences the onset of rain and their response to perturbations in the atmospheric aerosol. Using the CORAL system MPI-M scientists will have a new way at looking at these crucial processes.

CORAL was designed and developed by the MPI-M chief lidar scientist, Dr. Ilya Serikov, who led a team of engineers and technicians, in its development. CORAL is a combination of a high-powered laser with a new constellation of receiving telescopes and the capacity for high-rate data processing. Improved optics and electronics, interior temperature stabilization, and integration in a single container with a high-powered radar make it a one of a kind platform worldwide.

CORAL will form the centerpiece of ongoing measurements at the MPI-M Barbados Cloud Observatory (BCO), and will anchor forthcoming measurements as part of the EUREC4A field study in 2020. For better mobility CORAL integrates its instrumentation into a standard 20-foot container, which after tests in Hamburg has been packed and is now steaming toward Barbados Cloud Observatory. There it will be greeted by a team of engineers, scientists and technicians to finalize its configuration and conduct first tests as part of the Pre-EUREC4A field study taking place in January 2019.

Dr. Ilya Serikov, the lead lidar scientist within the Tropical Cloud Observation group which is responsible for the BCO looks forward to the fruits of many years of development and being able for the first time to “be able to zoom into the small-scale phenomena to be observed at the boundary of a cumulus cloud.”

Further information:
Barbados Cloud Observatory
About the group “Tropical Clouds Observation” at MPI-M
About the field study EUREC4A

Dr. Ilya Serikov
Max Planck Institute for Meteorology
Phone: 040 41173 257
Email: ilya.serikov@we dont want

Dr. Lutz Hirsch
Max Planck Institute for Meteorology
Phone: 040 41173 206
Email: lutz.hirsch@we dont want