Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences Cooperative Institute for Research
in Environmental Sciences

Chu Research Group

Lidar Exploration of the Atmosphere, Space and Their Interactions

We explore advanced spectroscopy principles, develop new lidar technologies, study the fundamental physical and chemical processes that govern the whole atmosphere, and make new discoveries in the atmosphere-space sciences.


This is an energetic group! Many members have traveled to the end of the world to make lidar observations in Antarctica. Two of them (Zhibin Yu and Brendan Roberts) have braved through the harsh Antarctic winters in 2011 and 2012!


We are excited not only by the beautiful penguin and aurora, but also by the new science discoveries we have made in the polar thermosphere, mesosphere and stratosphere from the McMurdo lidar data. More details can be found in our Publications.

An emperor penguin at Pegasus Airport near McMurdo


Three Adelie penguins chatting at the McMurdo sound

Boulder is home to a vibrant community of scientists and engineers and houses some of the world's most renowned environmental science institutes and facilities. Many of our residents allow this exploratory spirit to carry over into their free time, with vast expanses of open space in and around the community for hiking, biking, skiing and other outdoor activities.


Besides making new science discoveries, these creative researchers are also excited by making innovations in lidar technologies and developing the next-generation lidar instruments. Currently, several new lidars are being developed on our campus in Boulder.

Creative students Zhibin Yu and John A. Smith “painted” LIDAR with the STAR Na Doppler lidar at the Table Mountain Lidar Facility, north of Boulder.

We always welcome new members and scientific collaborations! Together we explore the atmosphere–space interactions with lidar observations and numerical modeling.

Spectacular aurora display over Arrival Heights near McMurdo, Antarctica when Zhibin Yu was operating our Fe Boltzmann lidar there on May 28, 2011.

Current Projects

  • CAREER Award Project

    (1) Establish a global seasonal climatology of temperature structure in the mesosphere and lower thermosphere (MLT) by analyzing and compiling past, present and future lidar data collected at low, mid, and high latitudes, and comparing lidar data to SABER satellite data.

  • CRRL/CTC Project

    Establishment of a lidar consortium technology center (CTC) for the newly established Consortium of Resonance and Rayleigh Lidars (CRRL) that mainly concentrates on the Na wind and temperature lidars; development and innovation of lidar technology for the next generation lidars; support and improve Na wind and temperature lidars at CSU, UIUC, and CoRA

  • McMurdo Lidar Project

    An exciting award from NSF's Office of Polar Programs is funding the Chu Research Group to deploy an Fe Boltzmann lidar to McMurdo, Antarctica to measure the middle and upper atmosphere for three years. Dr. Chu and her colleagues developed this lidar more than 10 years ago. With it, we made lidar observations from the North Pole to the South Pole. In particular, we made lidar measurements at the South Pole (90°S) and Rothera (67.5°S) from 1999-2005. Now our research group has upgraded this lidar and deployed it to McMurdo (78°S) since November 2010, to complete an observational chain in Antarctica.

  • MRI Lidar Project

    To develop a Major Research Instrumentation: Mobile Fe-resonance/Rayleigh/Mie Doppler lidar for simultaneous measurements of temperature (30-110 km), wind (80-110 km), Fe density (75-115 km), and aerosol (10-100 km) in both day and night with high accuracy, high precision, and high spatial and temporal resolutions. This lidar will be robust and compact for groundbased mobile deployment. It is containerized to move with a truck or ship to field locations of interest with extensive geographic coverage. Chirp-free and dither-free frequency locking and saturation-free Fe layer resonance will result in a bias-free estimate of winds and temperatures, which is revolutionary for Doppler lidar.

  • Novel Laser Spectroscopy and Innovative Lidar Technology

    Novel Doppler-free laser spectroscopy for K, Na, and Fe. This is extremely useful for the laser frequency locking and calibration of the Na, K, and Fe Doppler lidars. Design and development of next-generation resonance/Rayleigh/Mie Doppler lidar technology.

Past Projects

  • CEDAR Arecibo Project

    Study of MLT thermal structure, tides, and gravity waves at Maui, Hawaii (20.7N) and Arecibo, Puerto Rico (19.35N) using Na wind/temperature lidar, K Doppler lidar, SABER satellite, meteor radar, and incoherent scatter radar data; Development of daytime capability for Arecibo K lidar

  • CIRES Innovation Project

    Development of New Doppler Lidar Using Double-edge Atomic Absorption Filter with 3-Frequency Transmitter to Study Gravity Wave Excitation, Propagation, and Dissipation from Ground to Upper Atmosphere.

  • ESA Feasibility Study of Lidar in Space

  • Mobile Lidar Laboratory and Table Mountain Lidar Observatory

    Development of a mobile lidar laboratory for the middle and upper atmosphere lidar. The mobile lab consists of two lidar containers; Establishment of a lidar observatory at NOAA Table Mountain facility (north of Boulder).

  • Rothera Project

    Characterization of middle and upper atmosphere thermal structure, polar mesospheric/stratospheric clouds, mesospheric Fe layers, and gravity waves at Rothera Antarctic Station (67.5S, 68.0W) and the South Pole Station (90S) using Fe Boltzmann temperature lidar, imager, radar, and satellite data