A fiber-optic distributed temperature sensor for continuous in situ profiling up to 2 km beneath constant-altitude scientific balloons
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A fiber-optic distributed temperature sensor for continuous in situ profiling up to 2 km beneath constant-altitude scientific balloons

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  • Journal Title:
    Atmospheric Measurement Techniques
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    A novel fiber-optic distributed temperature sensing instrument, the Fiber-optic Laser Operated Atmospheric Temperature Sensor (FLOATS), was developed for continuous in situ profiling of the atmosphere up to 2 km below constant-altitude scientific balloons. The temperature-sensing system uses a suspended fiber-optic cable and temperature-dependent scattering of pulsed laser light in the Raman regime to retrieve continuous 3 m vertical-resolution profiles at a minimum sampling period of 20 s. FLOATS was designed for operation aboard drifting super-pressure balloons in the tropical tropopause layer at altitudes around 18 km as part of the Stratéole 2 campaign. A short test flight of the system was conducted from Laramie, Wyoming, in January 2021 to check the optical, electrical, and mechanical systems at altitude and to validate a four-reference temperature calibration procedure with a fiber-optic deployment length of 1170 m. During the 4 h flight aboard a vented balloon, FLOATS retrieved temperature profiles during ascent and while at a float altitude of about 19 km. The FLOATS retrievals provided differences of less than 1.0 ∘C compared to a commercial radiosonde aboard the flight payload during ascent. At float altitude, a comparison of optical length and GPS position at the bottom of the fiber-optic revealed little to no curvature in the fiber-optic cable, suggesting that the position of any distributed temperature measurement can be effectively modeled. Comparisons of the distributed temperature retrievals to the reference temperature sensors show strong agreement with root-mean-square-error values less than 0.4 ∘C. The instrument also demonstrated good agreement with nearby meteorological observations and COSMIC-2 satellite profiles. Observations of temperature and wind perturbations compared to the nearby radiosounding profiles provide evidence of inertial gravity wave activity during the test flight. Spectral analysis of the observed temperature perturbations shows that FLOATS is an effective and pioneering tool for the investigation of small-scale gravity waves in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere.
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    Atmospheric Measurement Techniques, 16(3), 791-807
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    CC BY
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