A brief historical review of Raman scattering as applied to remote sensing in the atmosphere is given. Recent data on relevant cross sections are tabulated. System performance characteristics of some of the more important measurements of the Raman lidar are reviewed and compared with experimental results to date. Comparisons are made with alternative methods of atmospheric probing with particular emphasis on differential absorption lidar (DIAL) system performance. System performance capabilities are reassessed on the basis of the latest available hardware and a near-term outlook is projected.