Date of Award:

5-2019

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Physics

Advisor/Chair:

Vincent B. Wickwar

Co-Advisor/Chair:

Maura E. Hagan

Third Advisor:

Robert R. Gillies

Abstract

Weather and climate forecasts are almost exclusively produced by computer models, which use atmospheric measurements as starting points. It is a well-known and joked-about fact that model predictions can be incorrect at times. One of the reasons this happens is due to gaps in our knowledge of atmospheric conditions in areas where measurements don’t often taken place, such as the mesosphere, which stretches from roughly 45-90 km altitude.

A lidar is a device that can shoot out short bursts of laser light to measure things such as atmospheric thickness at a distance. From this information one can then derive the temperature in the upper atmosphere. Using temperature measurements taken by lidar at Utah State University (41.74° N, 111.81° W) and temperatures from three popular atmospheric models, a comparison is made covering the period 1993-2004 at 45 km altitude. This comparison demonstrates poor predictive capabilities of the models at the target altitude and suggests the need for integrating datasets such as lidar data into future models. The modeling community depends on real measurement comparisons to bolster the reliability and credibility of their own work, and the comparison done here is intended to highlight an area in need of improvement.

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