New Technology Uses Lasers to Measure the Atmosphere

news image
Special Stories
24 Jun 2024 10:00 AM

Above - The High-Altitude LiDAR Atmospheric Sensing System. Photo Credit: Honeywell

Laser Beams into the sky. Sounds pretty cool, right? Thanks to a partnership between NOAA and Honeywell, this technology could be a new tool for weather forecasting.  Honeywell has developed The High-Altitude LiDAR Atmospheric Sensing System, or HALAS for short. This ground-based weather system uses laser pulses to measure wind speed, direction, humidity, and temperature up to 100 thousand feet above Earth’s Surface.  

According to Honeywell, the system works by staring into the atmosphere, "almost like staring when you look at the stars at night, the further you stare bogs down the more you see, we can gather information for five minutes, and it depends on our sample, our sample duration, but it's about reading to the point of the atmosphere. Now for certain key parameters, we can take a single point or a single shot in the sphere and read those those variables. For wind speed direction, we do need to triangulate that and average that over a period of time. But it comes from anywhere from five minutes up to a sampling up to an hour. What fits the need, and what the unique use cases are."

To forecast weather, initial observations are input into the models. The model data output will only be as good as those initial conditions, and sometimes those are hard to come by, especially when considering the upper layers of the atmosphere. It’s the same reason Hurricane Hunters fly into the eye of a storm for data... better observations mean better model forecasts. Right now, the National Weather Service uses weather balloons, launched twice daily from 122 offices across the country. The balloons cost about $250 each and only showcase a limited profile of the atmosphere. That’s where the new technology comes in with the goal to provide more rapid upper-air observations, especially during rapidly changing weather patterns.

The project, still in its initial research phase, has a single sensing station in Sterling, VA, used in partnership with the NWS team in Baltimore. Their meteorologist Jordan Gerth says "The weather service is going to continue to collect the observations that we have today as we approach new technology in a colossal way and determine exactly how we're going to integrate that to maximize the warnings and forecasts that we provide to the public." The job at NWS Sterling (Washington D.C.) is to look "at how this particular system and this capability can be integrated into that so that we have the most robust weather observing architecture or observations in this country.   

If the two-year project is successful, expansion of the HALAS system to additional areas of the country will be possible. Honeywell says they are working towards a network of the HALAS systems installed throughout the continental U.S. as well as global partners to run and turn the data into usable insights for models 24/7.

All Weather News
More
Intense Heat Fuels Storms in the Northeast

Intense Heat Fuels Storms in the Northeast

Tornado-warned storms drove through portions

17 Jul 2024 5:40 PM
Storms Target the High Plains this Week

Storms Target the High Plains this Week

A stubborn low-pressure system keeps much of

17 Jul 2024 5:40 PM
Stalled Front Brings Storms to the South

Stalled Front Brings Storms to the South

A stubborn and relatively stalled low-pressur

17 Jul 2024 5:35 PM
Extended Forecast: Cool Down Sweeping Across the Midwest

Extended Forecast: Cool Down Sweeping Across the Midwest

Are you ready for some heat relief? Two waves

17 Jul 2024 5:30 PM
Heat Dome Sits Over the Four Corners

Heat Dome Sits Over the Four Corners

A stagnant ridge of high pressure has led to

17 Jul 2024 5:25 PM
Thick Plume of Saharan Dust Keeps Tropics Quiet

Thick Plume of Saharan Dust Keeps Tropics Quiet

Conditions are quiet in the tropical Atlantic

17 Jul 2024 2:00 PM
Chicago Cleaning Up from Derecho, Tornadoes Monday

Chicago Cleaning Up from Derecho, Tornadoes Monday

The National Weather Service classified the s

17 Jul 2024 10:05 AM