Observations of optically active turbulence in the planetary boundary layer by sodar at the Concordia astronomical observatory, Dome C, Antarctica

Petenko, I. et al., 2014, Astronomy and Astrophysics, 568, A44 | View on ADS (2014A&A...568A..44P) | Access via DOI


Aims: An experiment was set up at the Concordia station in Antarctica during the winter-over period in 2012 to determine the behaviour of atmospheric optical turbulence in the lower part of the atmospheric boundary layer. The aim of the experiment was to study the influence of turbulence and weather conditions on the quality of astronomical observations. The Concordia station is characterised by the high quality of astronomical images thanks to very low seeing values. The surface layer in the interior of Antarctica during the winter is very stably stratified with the differences of temperature between the surface and the top of the inversion, which reach 20-35°C. In spite of this strong static stability, considerable thermal optically active turbulence sometimes occurs and extends to several tens of metres above the surface, depending on weather conditions. It is important to know the meteorological characteristics that favour good astronomical observations.
Methods: The optical measurements of the seeing made by differential image motion monitors installed at two levels of 8 and 20 m were accompanied by observations of turbulence in the lowest one hundred meters. Turbulence was detected and evaluated using a high-resolution sodar developed specially for this purpose. The statistics of some relevant meteorological variables including the long-wave downward radiation, which indicates cloudiness, were determined.
Results: Typical patterns of the vertical and temporal structure of turbulence shown by sodar echograms were identified, analysed, and classified. The statistics of the depth of the surface-based turbulent layer and the turbulent optical factor for different height layers are presented together with the seeing statistics. We analysed the dependence of both seeing and integral turbulence intensity within the first 100 m on temperature and wind speed.
Conclusions: Seeing and turbulence intensity in the atmospheric boundary layer appear to be correlated. The best values of the seeing (<1 arcsec) are observed when the sodar shows very low turbulence intensity. The main contribution to the image distortion is due to turbulence generated within the lowest 30-50 m near the surface. The presented statistics of the vertical distribution of the atmospheric optical turbulence can be used to determine the optimal location for astronomical instruments.

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