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Atmospheric turbulence forecasting with a general circulation model for Cerro Paranal.

Osborn, J. and Sarazin, M. (2018) 'Atmospheric turbulence forecasting with a general circulation model for Cerro Paranal.', Monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society., 480 (1). pp. 1278-1299.


In addition to astro-meteorological parameters, such as seeing, coherence time, and isoplanatic angle, the vertical profile of the Earth’s atmospheric turbulence strength and velocity is important for instrument design, performance validation and monitoring, and observation scheduling and management. Here we compare these astro-meteorological parameters as well as the vertical profile itself from a forecast model based on a general circulation model from the European Centre for Median range Weather Forecasts and the stereo-SCIDAR, a high-sensitivity turbulence profiling instrument in regular operation at Paranal, Chile. The model is fast to process as no spatial nesting or data manipulation is performed. This speed enables the model to be reactive based on the most up to date forecasts. We find that the model is statistically consistent with measurements from stereo-SCIDAR. The correlation of the median turbulence profile from the model and the measurement is 0.98. We also find that the distributions of astro-meteorological parameters are consistent. We compare contemporaneous measurements and show that the free atmosphere seeing, isoplanatic angle, and coherence time have correlation values of 0.64, 0.40, and 0.63, respectively. We show and compare the profile sequences from a large number of trial nights. We see that the model is able to forecast the evolution of dominating features. In addition to smart scheduling, ensuring that the most sensitive astronomical observations are scheduled for the optimum time, this model could enable remote site characterization using a large archive of weather forecasts and could be used to optimize the performance of wide-field adaptive optics system.

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Publisher statement:This article has been accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society ©: 2018 Author(s) Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.
Date accepted:10 July 2018
Date deposited:21 August 2018
Date of first online publication:19 July 2018
Date first made open access:21 August 2018

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