Evaluation of Mixing-Height Retrievals from Automatic Profiling Lidars and Ceilometers in View of Future Integrated Networks in Europe
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The determination of the depth of daytime and nighttime mixing layers must be known very accurately to relate boundary-layer concentrations of gases or particles to upstream fluxes. The mixing-height is parametrized in numerical weather prediction models, so improving the determination of the mixing height will improve the quality of the estimated gas and particle budgets. Datasets of mixing-height diurnal cycles with high temporal and spatial resolutions are sought by various end users. Lidars and ceilometers provide vertical profiles of backscatter from aerosol particles. As aerosols are predominantly concentrated in the mixing layer, lidar backscatter profiles can be used to trace the depth of the mixing layer. Large numbers of automatic profiling lidars and ceilometers are deployed by meteorological services and other agencies in several European countries providing systems to monitor the mixing height on temporal and spatial scales of unprecedented density. We investigate limitations and capabilities of existing mixing height retrieval algorithms by applying five different retrieval techniques to three different lidars and ceilometers deployed during two 1-month campaigns. We studied three important steps in the mixing height retrieval process, namely the lidar/ceilometer pre-processing to reach sufficient signal-to-noise ratio, gradient detection techniques to find the significant aerosol gradients, and finally quality control and layer attribution to identify the actual mixing height from multiple possible layer detections. We found that layer attribution is by far the most uncertain step. We tested different gradient detection techniques, and found no evidence that the first derivative, wavelet transform, and two-dimensional derivative techniques have different skills to detect one or multiple significant aerosol gradients from lidar and ceilometer attenuated backscatter. However, our study shows that, when mixing height retrievals from a ultraviolet lidar and a near-infrared ceilometer agreed, they were 25–40% more likely to agree with an independent radiosonde mixing height retrieval than when each lidar or ceilometer was used alone. Furthermore, we point to directions that may assist the layer attribution step, for instance using commonly available surface measurements of radiation and temperature to derive surface sensible heat fluxes as a proxy for the intensity of convective mixing. It is a worthwhile effort to pursue such studies so that within a few years automatic profiling lidar and ceilometer networks can be utilized efficiently to monitor mixing heights at the European scale.
KeywordsBoundary layer Ceilometer Lidar Mixing height
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