Australia’s research into the Antarctic atmosphere will reach greater heights this summer thanks to a new high-powered German laser which will be installed at Australia’s Davis station.

The new Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) laser will be shipped south as part of a collaboration between the Australian Antarctic Division and Germany’s Leibnitz-Institute of Atmospheric Physics.

LIDARs shoot a beam of laser light into the air to measure atmospheric density, temperature, wind speed and aerosol particles.

The Division’s Project Leader, Ray Morris, said the German LIDAR will compliment the Rayleigh LIDAR, radars and optical spectrometers operating at Davis station since 2001.

“The Davis LIDAR has been gathering some really important climatic information in the atmosphere, between 10 and 90 kilometres above the earth’s surface,” Dr Morris said.

“But the new German LIDAR will use a different wave length to reach higher into the lower thermosphere, to an altitude of 80–100 kilometres.

“It will provide more accurate temperature and wind readings as well as detailed information on the formation of noctilucent clouds (frozen water vapour).”

Having two LIDAR’s at Davis station will allow scientists to gather a complete temperature climatology, from the earth’s surface up to 100 kilometres, for the first time.

“This information will help us better understand the processes associated with atmospheric change, particularly those related to global warming,” he said.

“Additionally we will be able to do some polar comparisons, as the German LIDAR is normally located at 69 degrees north and we will now be gathering readings at Davis station at 69 degrees south.”

Australian and German scientists will operate the suite of sophisticated atmospheric instruments at Davis from November 2010 to March 2012.