Collaborative Research: Instabilities and Turbulence in Gravity Wave Dissipation and Formation of Thermospheric Sodium Layers above the Andes

PI Zhuangren Liu

This award will fund continued operations of a sodium (Na) wind-temperature (W&T) lidar at the Andes Lidar Observatory (ALO) in Cerro Pachon, Chile (30.25 S, 70.74 W, elev. 2530 m) supporting scientific studies aimed at the dynamics of mesopause atmospheric instabilities and turbulence structures formation resulting from the gravity wave (GW) dissipation processes for a spatial region above the Andes where the population of mountain GW events is abundant. The Na lidar at ALO is a state-of-the-art resonance-fluorescence Doppler lidar, capable of measuring 3D wind, neutral temperature and Na density profiles with excellent vertical and temporal resolutions within the 80-105 km altitude range (referred to as the MLT region) and with high accuracy. Other possible W&T lidar studies would include the extension of lidar observations into the lower thermosphere, with wind and temperature measurements up to 140 km altitude for the somewhat frequent occurrence of thermospheric sodium layers. The formation of such layers is not understood and will be a significant topic of research in this award. Another interesting application of the ALO observatory is the detection of turbulence scale perturbations in the mesosphere and lower thermosphere temperature and wind profiles that are related to the formation of atmospheric unstable layers and dissipation of GW events.

Research Dates

07/15/2018 to 06/30/2023


  • Alan Liu
    Physical Sciences Department
    Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Fan Yang
    Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Dept
    Ph.D., Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University