Multistatic aerosol–cloud lidar in space: A theoretical perspective

Mishchenko, M., M. D. Alexandrov, B. Cairns, and L. D. Travis (2016), Multistatic aerosol–cloud lidar in space: A theoretical perspective, J. Quant. Spectrosc. Radiat. Transfer, 184, 180-192, doi:10.1016/j.jqsrt.2016.07.015.

Accurate aerosol and cloud retrievals from space remain quite challenging and typically involve solving a severely ill-posed inverse scattering problem. In this Perspective, we formulate in general terms an aerosol and aerosol–cloud interaction space mission concept intended to provide detailed horizontal and vertical profiles of aerosol physical characteristics as well as identify mutually induced changes in the properties of aerosols and clouds. We argue that a natural and feasible way of addressing the ill-posedness of the inverse scattering problem while having an exquisite vertical-profiling capability is to fly a multistatic (including bistatic) lidar system. We analyze theoretically the capabilities of a formation-flying constellation of a primary satellite equipped with a conventional monostatic (backscattering) lidar and one or more additional platforms each hosting a receiver of the scattered laser light. If successfully implemented, this concept would combine the measurement capabilities of a passive multi-angle multi-spectral polarimeter with the vertical profiling capability of a lidar; address the ill-posedness of the inverse problem caused by the highly limited information content of monostatic lidar measurements; address the ill-posedness of the inverse problem caused by vertical integration and surface reflection in passive photopolarimetric measurements; help relax polarization accuracy requirements; eliminate the need for exquisite radiative-transfer modeling of the atmosphere–surface system in data analyses; yield the day-and-night observation capability; provide direct characterization of ground-level aerosols as atmospheric pollutants; and yield direct measurements of polarized bidirectional surface reflectance. We demonstrate, in particular, that supplementing the conventional backscattering lidar with just one additional receiver flown in formation at a scattering angle close to 170° can dramatically increase the information content of the measurements. Although the specific subject of this Perspective is the multistatic lidar concept, all our conclusions equally apply to a multistatic radar system intended to study from space the global distribution of cloud and precipitation characteristics.

PDF of Publication: 
Download from publisher's website.
Research Program: 
Radiation Science Program (RSP)