Skip to main content

An Optical Backscattersonde for Balloon Aerological Measurements


The operation principle of an optical aerosol sonde is based on detection of radiation scattered in a free atmosphere from a sequence of light probing pulses emitted by LEDs at two wavelengths, 470 and 940 nm. Like in a lidar, echo signals are synchronously accumulated simultaneously with probing pulses. Unlike in a lidar, the recorded signal is formed by the lens system of photodetectors due to radiation scattering in a light-scattering volume of ~0.1 m3 located at short distances of ~0.2–5 m from the source. The scattered radiation entering the photodetector is not strictly backward (by 180°) as in a lidar, since the characteristic scattering angles are ~170°–180°. For a more rigorous modeling of the sonde measurement processes, with allowance for possible scattering angles, a measurement model was developed and applied based on the Monte Carlo method. To increase the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), the optical axes of the photodetector and emitters are located at an angle of 5°, which, when using synchronous signal detection, allows one to obtain an SNR value of at least 50 at an altitude of 30 km. The probe can be easily integrated with all types of standard aerological radiosondes and, having its own navigation module and telemetry system, can also be used in autonomous flights. The all-weather aerosol backscattersonde can be used at night time for studying and monitoring polar stratospheric clouds, tropospheric and stratospheric aerosol, cirrus clouds, pyroconvection, volcanic aerosol, as well as for verifying remote methods and means of ground- and satellite-based aerosol observations. The use of the two-wave measurement technique makes it possible to reliably diagnose changes in the aerosol composition with height by the color index. In some cases, the type of aerosol is also identified. The data of probe measurements in March 2021 over Salekhard, when the temperatures of air masses inside the polar stratospheric cyclone were slightly higher than the threshold values for the formation of type I polar stratospheric clouds, are presented. Calculations of the color index indicate the dominance of sulfuric-acid aerosol at heights of 10–15 km, as well as the fact that the aerosol composition definitely changes as the height decreases, apparently due to the addition of soot particles.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1.
Fig. 2.
Fig. 3.
Fig. 4.
Fig. 5.


  1. R. F. Pueschel, “Stratospheric aerosols: Formation, properties, effects,” Aerosol Sci. 27 (3), 383–402 (1996).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. T. Deshler, “A review of global stratospheric aerosol: Measurements, importance, life cycle, and local stratospheric aerosol,” Atmos. Res. 90, 223–232 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. P. J. Sheridan, C. A. Brock, and J. C. Wilson, “Aerosol particles in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere: Elemental composition and morphology of individual particles in northern midlatitudes,” Geophys. Res. Lett. 21, 2587–2590 (1994).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. D. M. Murphy, D. S. Thomson, and M. J. Mahoney, “In situ measurements of organics, meteoritic material, mercury, and other elements in aerosols at 5 to 19 km,” Atmos. Sci. 282, 1664–1669 (1998).

    Google Scholar 

  5. M. Gerding, G. Baumgarten, U. Blum, et al., “Observation of an unusual mid-stratospheric aerosol layer in the Arctic: Possible sources and implications for polar vortex dynamics,” Ann. Geophys. 21, 1057–1069 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. M. Fromm, A. Jerome, K. Hoppel, et al., “Observations of boreal forest fire smoke in the stratosphere by POAM III, SAGE II, and lidar in 1998,” Geol. Soc. Am. Bull. 27 (9), 1407–1410 (2000).

    Google Scholar 

  7. J. Goodman, K. G. Snetsinger, R. F. Pueschel, et al., “Evolution of Pinatubo aerosol near 19 km altitude over western North America,” Geol. Soc. Am. Bull. 21, 1129–1132 (1994).

    Google Scholar 

  8. S. Khaykin, B. Legras, S. Bucci, P. Sellitto, L. Isaksen, F. Tencé, S. Slimane Bekki, A. Bourassa, L. Rieger, D. Zawada, J. Julien Jumelet, and S. Godin-Beekmann, “The 2019/20 Australian wildfires generated a persistent smoke-charged vortex rising up to 35 km altitude,” Commun. Earth Environ. 1 (1), 22 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. J. M. Rosen and N. T. Kjome, “Backscattersonde: A new instrument for atmospheric aerosol research,” Appl. Opt. 30 (12), 1552–1561 (1991).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. M. Brabec, F. Wienhold, B. Luo, H. Vomel, P. Steiner, E. Hausammann, U. Weers, and T. Peters, “Particle backscatter and relative humidity measured across cirrus clouds and comparison with microphysical cirrus modelling,” Atmos. Chem. Phys. 12 (19), 9135–9148 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. SPARC, 2006: SPARC Assessment of Stratospheric Aerosol Properties (ASAP), Ed. by L. Thomason and Th. Peter (2006), SPARC Report No. 4, WCRP-124, WMO/TD No. 1295. sparc-reports/.

  12. B. A. Fomin and I. P. Mazin, “Model for an investigation of radiative transfer in cloudy atmosphere,” Atmos. Res. 47–48, 127–153 (1998).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. A. Bucholtz, “Rayleigh-scattering calculations for the terrestrial atmosphere,” Appl. Opt. 34 (15), 2765–2773 (1995).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. D. Hanson and K. Mauersberger, “Laboratory studies of the nitric acid trihydrate: Implications for the south polar stratosphere,” Geol. Soc. Am. Bull. 15, 855–858 (1988).

    Google Scholar 

  15. P. N. Vargin, V. V. Guryanov, A. N. Lukyanov and A. S. Vyzankin, “Dynamic processes of the Arctic stratosphere in the 2020–2021 winter,” 57 (6), 568–580 (2021).

  16. V. V. Zuev, Lidar Control of the Stratosphere (Nauka, Novosibirsk, 2004) [in Russian].

    Google Scholar 

  17. K. Ya. Kondrat’ev, N. I. Moskalenko, and D. V. Pozdnyakov, Atmospheric Aerosol (Gidrometeoizdat, Leningrad, 1983) [in Russian].

    Google Scholar 

  18. WCP-112. A preliminary cloudless standard atmosphere for radiation computation, World Climate Research Program, WMO/TD, 1986.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to V. A. Yushkov.

Ethics declarations

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Additional information

Translated by A. Nikol’skii

This paper was prepared based on an oral report presented at the All-Russian Conference “Intrinsic Radiation, Structure, and Dynamics of the Middle and Upper Atmosphere” (Moscow, November 22–23, 2021).

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Balugin, N., Fomin, B. & Yushkov, V. An Optical Backscattersonde for Balloon Aerological Measurements. Izv. Atmos. Ocean. Phys. 58, 314–320 (2022).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • aerosol
  • backscattering
  • tropospheric aerosol
  • stratospheric aerosol
  • balloon sounding
  • optical parameters