CARLA Project


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Culebra Aerosol Research Lidar

The Culebra Aerosol Research Lidar (CARLA) project was funded by the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust (PRST) in March 2020. Through its innovative instrument it will provide aerosol data to study Saharan dust at a Caribbean location.
Additional funding was received in the form of a supplemental award of the main National Science Foundation Arecibo Observatory (AO) award. The funds of this supplement are used to deploy the CARLA instrument in a separate housing at the AO Remote Optical Facility (ROF) at Culebra. A customized 10ft by 8ft container with all the requirements to house and operate the CARLA instrument is acquired and scheduled to arrive at AO in January 2021.

Project Description

Container layout sketch (Block Diagram)

Equipment Test Setup

CARLA’s research instrument, a high spectral resolution aerosol lidar, will be developed at the main site of the AO and, thereafter, installed at the ROF of the AO in Culebra island. CARLA will deliver information about aerosol properties over time and altitude. Especially height resolved measurements are an important factor since most of the other aerosol instruments deliver only column measurements of the atmospheric aerosols. Only the knowledge of all three variables: aerosol properties, time, and altitude enables the study of the dynamics of aerosol layers. This includes dust coming across the Atlantic Ocean from the African continent that is named Saharan Air Layer (SAL). The SAL plays an important role in the lower atmosphere because it influences cloud and hurricane formation, weather, and the health of our population, among others. Based on the SAL track, CARLA will be deployed at the Remote Optica Facility of the AO in Culebra island. Culebra is a unique site to investigate the SAL free of anthropogenic pollution before it reaches Puerto Rico mainland. The purpose of the CARLA project is twofold: (a) study and provide data to the scientific community of aerosol properties and SAL over the island of Culebra, and (b) increase opportunities for the educational system by outreach activities for Puerto Rico’s K-12 schools as well as for university students to perform hands-on research experience.

AO News Articles

Culebra Aerosol Research Lidar (CARLA) Project Selected for Funding
Atmospheric Sciences

The CARLA project, lead by Arecibo Observatory (AO) scientist Dr. Jens Lautenbach (PI) and Dr. Pedrina Terra dos Santos (Co-I), was recently awarded funding by the Puerto Rico Science Technology & Research Trust. CARLA will deliver information about aerosol properties over time and altitude in order to study the dynamics of aerosol layers, including the Saharan Air Layer which influences cloud and hurricane formation and the air quality. + Read More

Summer Student Assists in Development of Newest AO Facility
Space & Atmospheric Sciences

Even before the newest AO facility is complete, students and scientists are already hard at work on the relevant science projects. The Culebra Aerosol Research Lidar (CARLA) facility, which began construction in March of 2020, will be used to track aerosols in the atmosphere. Of particular importance is the study of the Saharan dust in the air, which affects air quality and hurricane formation in the Atlantic and Greater Caribbean region. June 2020 saw a uniquely strong dust plume event, causing noticeably dimmer skies as far west as Texas. + Read More

Contact Person


Dr. Jens Lautenbach Observatory Scientist Principal Investigator of CARLA project jens.lautenbach@ucf.edu