Ceilometer Facts

Ceilometer Facts
A ceilometer is a tool used to determine the height of the base of a cloud (the lowest visible part of a cloud) or to measure the amount of aerosol in the atmosphere. A ceilometer uses a light source or a laser to measure the cloud base's height. To gather the information used to measure the cloud base height the ceilometer reflects a light beam or laser off the cloud base from the ground and uses either travel time or triangulation to calculate the distance. Ceilometers can be hazardous to birds however when the birds become caught in the light beam and either collide or become exhausted and die.
Interesting Ceilometer Facts:
Ceilometers can also be hazardous to humans if they use binoculars or other optical items near them. The light or laser can become concentrated and do serious damage to the eyes.
The largest laser light bird catastrophe to birds occurred in 1954 at the Warner Robins Air Force Base in the U.S. Approximately 50,000 birds were killed that night because of ceilometer use. This included birds from at least 53 different species.
An optical ceilometer's parts include a projector, a detector, and a recorder.
The projector of an optical ceilometer sends the light or laser into the sky.
The detector of an optical ceilometer, which is located at a specific distance from the projector part of the ceilometer, has a photoelectric cell that detects the light when it is reflected at the cloud base. The angle is noted which provides the measurement to determine the cloud base height.
The recorder of an optical ceilometer has been calibrated to directly show cloud height.
A laser ceilometer sends a pulse of laser light to the cloud base. It is then reflected back and the ceilometer uses the amount of time it takes to reflect to determine cloud base height.
Ceilometers are used for meteorology and aviation mostly. Cloud data is reported to flight crews and cloud ceiling status is monitored continuously at airports.
Some ceilometers are capable of measuring cloud layers as high as 30,000 feet. They are also able to measure multiple cloud layers to this height.
Laser ceilometers in meteorology are used for a variety of purposes including measuring aerosol in the atmosphere, cloud formations, the structure of the atmosphere, the composition of the atmosphere, precipitation, gas presence, gas concentration, wind turbulence, wind speed, changes in wind conditions, and to detect wind currents.
Laser ceilometers are part of a system called LIDAR (light detection and ranging system).
Ceilometers are now being useful in the renewable energy field due to their ability to detect wind currents and changes in wind conditions.
Laser ceilometers are being used to map clouds of volcanic ash. They are set up at commercial airports in New Zealand. These laser ceilometers can help alert air traffic personnel to the presence of volcanic ash clouds and help pilots avoid them to avoid damage to aircraft or potential tragedy.
While ceilometers have a great many uses in meteorology they are extremely useful at airports.

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