Behavior and Mechanisms of Doppler Wind Lidar Error in Varying Stability Regimes

Rachel Robey, Julie Lundquist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus Citations


Wind lidars are widespread and important tools in atmospheric observations. An intrinsic part of lidar measurement error is due to atmospheric variability in the remote-sensing scan volume. This study describes and quantifies the distribution of measurement error due to turbulence in varying atmospheric stability. While the lidar error model is general, we demonstrate the approach using large ensembles of virtual WindCube V2 lidar performing a profiling Doppler-beam-swinging scan in quasi-stationary large-eddy simulations (LESs) of convective and stable boundary layers. Error trends vary with the stability regime, time averaging of results, and observation height. A systematic analysis of the observation error explains dominant mechanisms and supports the findings of the empirical results. Treating the error under a random variable framework allows for informed predictions about the effect of different configurations or conditions on lidar performance. Convective conditions are most prone to large errors (up to 1.5 m s-1 in 1 Hz wind speed in strong convection), driven by the large vertical velocity variances in convective conditions and the high elevation angle of the scanning beams (62 degrees). Range-gate weighting induces a negative bias into the horizontal wind speeds near the surface shear layer (-0.2 m s-1 in the stable test case). Errors in the horizontal wind speed and direction computed from the wind components are sensitive to the background wind speed but have negligible dependence on the relative orientation of the instrument. Especially during low winds and in the presence of large errors in the horizontal velocity estimates, the reported wind speed is subject to a systematic positive bias (up to 0.4 m s-1 in 1 Hz measurements in strong convection). Vector time-averaged measurements can improve the behavior of the error distributions (reducing the 10 min wind speed error standard deviation to <0.3 m s-1 and the bias to <0.1 m s-1 in strong convection) with a predictable effectiveness related to the number of decorrelated samples in the time window. Hybrid schemes weighting the 10 min scalar- and vector-averaged lidar measurements are shown to be effective at reducing the wind speed biases compared to cup measurements in most of the simulated conditions, with time averages longer than 10 min recommended for best use in some unstable conditions. The approach in decomposing the error mechanisms with the help of the LES flow field could be extended to more complex measurement scenarios and scans.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)4585-4622
Number of pages38
JournalAtmospheric Measurement Techniques
Issue number15
StatePublished - 2022

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5000-82378


  • atmospheric boundary layer
  • large-eddy simulation
  • lidar
  • remote sensing
  • wind energy


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