Why 3D winds?

3D winds are the horizontal vector component of the 3D wind field.  3D winds are one of greatest observation gaps in the operational weather community. 

3D wind measurements would benefit:
  • extreme weather forecasting
  • civil aviation
  • military operations
  • air quality forecasting
  • commerce

Space-based 3D wind measurements at Ball

Ball's wind LIDAR technology development offers scientists and weather forecasters a simpler, more cost-effective path to global wind measurements, which will result in more accurate weather forecasting.

The first Optical Autocovariance type receiver was built at Ball starting in 2004 under Internal Research and Development funding. In 2008, under an Instrument Incubator Program grant from the NASA Earth Science Technology Office, Ball built the system into a full prototype of the Optical Autocovariance Wind Lidar (OAWL). Since then, Ball has partnered with NASA Earth Science Techonology Office to futher develop the mission concept and perform system validation.


International Space Station orbit

ATHENA-OAWL (Atmospheric Transport, Hurricanes, and Extratropical Numerical weAther prediction using the Optical Autocovariance Wind Lidar) will provide more than 10 times more wind profile measurements across the oceans than the current measurement systems extending the useful forecast range by at least four hours.


ATHENA-OAWL Airborne Demonstrator

Ball has designed, built and validated multiple versions of the OAWL system. The most recent is a 532 nm Green-OAWL (GrOAWL). GrOAWL underwent airborne testing aboard the NASA WB-57 aircraft in summer 2016. Airborne testing serves to validate this future space-based system for ATHENA-OAWL.


GrOAWL wind speed and direction profiles are derived using two-look line of sight OAWL Doppler measurements acquired over the Gulf of Mexico on 17 June 2016.  The wind barb colors indicate the speed, and the barbs are pointing into the direction of the wind (i.e. winds around 4 km are mostly easterly, while winds above 6.5 km are more Northerly).  The six slanted wind barb profiles shown in bold indicate speed and direction as measured by radiosondes dropped from the aircraft to validate the lidar measurement.

Graphical representaion of GRoawl data
Image courtesy of Sunil Baidar, University of Colorado


Ground and Airborne based validation

Ball's HAWC-OAWL (High spectral resolution lidar for Aerosols, Winds and Clouds) enables simultaneous Earth science measurements of winds and aerosols required for weather and air-quality forecasting. This instrument will advance the study of impacts of dust and aerosol transport on a global energy and water cycles, air quality and climate.