An overview of NASA’s ASCENDS Mission’s Lidar Measurement Requirements

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 11:15 AM
James Brice Abshire1, Edward V Browell2, Robert T Menzies3, Bing Lin4, Gary D Spiers3 and Syed Ismail4, (1)NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, United States, (2)STARSS II Affiliate, Hampton, VA, United States, (3)Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, United States, (4)NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, United States
The objectives of NASA’s ASCENDS mission are to improve the knowledge of global CO2 sources and sinks by precisely measuring the tropospheric column abundance of atmospheric CO2 and O2. The mission will use a continuously operating nadir-pointed integrated path differential absorption (IPDA) lidar in a polar orbit. The lidar offers a number of important new capabilities and will measure atmospheric CO2 globally over a wide range of challenging conditions, including at night, at high latitudes, through hazy and thin cloud conditions, and to cloud tops. The laser source enables a measurement of range, so that the absorption path length to the scattering surface will be always accurately known. The lidar approach also measures consistently in a nadir-zenith path and the narrow laser linewidth allows weighting the measurement to the lower troposphere. Using these measurements with atmospheric and flux models will allow improved estimates of CO2 fluxes and hence better understanding of the processes that exchange CO2 between the surface and atmosphere.

The ASCENDS formulation team has developed a preliminary set of requirements for the lidar measurements. These were developed based on experience gained from the numerous ASCENDS airborne campaigns that have used different candidate lidar measurement techniques. They also take into account the complexity of making precise measurement of atmospheric gas columns when viewing the Earth from space. Some of the complicating factors are the widely varying reflectance and topographic heights of the Earth’s land and ocean surfaces, the variety of cloud types, and the degree of cloud and aerosol absorption and scattering in the atmosphere.

The requirements address the precision and bias in the measured column mixing ratio, the dynamic range of the expected surface reflected signal, the along-track sampling resolution, measurements made through thin clouds, measurements to forested and slope surfaces, range precision, measurements to cloud tops, knowledge of the laser spot position, and off-nadir pointing. These requirements are independent of the measurement approach, and are consistent with the initial mission simulation studies performed by the formulation team. This presentation will summarize the requirements along with examples that have guided their selection.