Spaceborne lidar calibration from cirrus and molecular backscatter returns

J. A. Reagan, X. Wang, M. T. Osborn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


In order to make optimal quantitative use of multiwavelength spaceborne lidar data, it is essential that the lidar be well calibrated. Due to system gain/efficiency changes that can be expected to occur during the course of a shuttle or satellite mission, it is essential to employ a calibration approach that can be implemented on-orbit, preferably repeatable at least a few times per orbit. For wavelengths less than about 550 nm, in situ calibration can be accomplished via normalization to high-altitude nearly molecular scattering regions. However, for longer wavelengths beyond about 800 nm, particularly the popular Nd: YAG fundamental wavelength at 1064 nm, the Rayleigh normalization approach becomes questionable due to both an inherently weaker signal and a stronger, variable, and somewhat unknown aerosol scattering contribution. For lidars operating at both longer and shorter wavelengths, a viable approach is to retrieve the longer wavelength calibrations ratioed to the shorter wavelength calibrations via comparisons of spectral backscatter from known/quantifiable scatterers. Cirrus clouds are good for this purpose because they occur at high altitudes with significant frequency and provide strong nearly spectrally flat backscatter. This paper presents both the molecular normalization and cirrus spectral backscatter ratio calibration approaches, including results obtained from case studies of lidar data collected during the LITE shuttle mission. Attention is focused on developing a simple autonomous approach applicable to satellite lidar missions such as Cloud-Aerosol Lidar Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) and the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2285-2290
Number of pages6
JournalIEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2002


  • Cirrus backscatter
  • Lidar callibration
  • Spaceborne lidar

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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