Basic results of a comprehensive investigation of the potential and restrictions of the remote sensing lidar technique in
smoke-polluted atmospheres made in the Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory (FSL) are presented. The study is based on
the three-year lidar measurements of dynamics and optical characteristics of smoke plumes originated in prescribed
burns and wildfires. For the measurements, a mobile two-wavelength scanning lidar was used. The lidar operated in the
vertical scanning mode and in a combined vertical-azimuthal mode and provided detailed, range-resolved information on
the smoke particulate loading up the distances and heights of 5 - 10 km from the lidar.
The lidar was successfully used for the real-time determination of smoke plume dispersion, its top heights, and
spatial boundaries. In some cases, the measured smoke plume tops reached heights of more than 8 km above ground
level. The lidar measurements close to large wildfires also revealed numerous cases of a multilayered atmosphere with
well-defined horizontally stratified smoke layers, generally, at heights between 1 and 3 km, originating in morning
inversions and then sustained by the solar heating of the layers. The time series measurements allowed monitoring of
their temporal transformation, including the downdraft transport of the smoke particulates to ground level.
Special measurement methodology and data processing techniques for the smoke-polluted atmospheres were
developed. This made it possible to obtain accurate vertical profiles of the optical characteristics of the smoke
particulates, such as optical depth, and the backscatter and extinction coefficients.