Optical turbulence can have a severe effect on the propagation of laser beams through the atmosphere. In free space optics and directed energy applications, these laser beams quite often propagate along a slant or vertical path. In these cases, the refractive index structure function parameter cannot be assumed constant, since it varies with height. How it varies with height, especially in the first few meters above the ground, is not well behaved. Turbulence height profiles have been measured since the 1970s, mainly for astronomical observations. These profiles are usually measured for the atmospheric boundary layer (the layer of air from the ground up to approx. 1 km during day and 100 m during night) and some kilometers above it. We have measured the temperature fluctuations in the first few meters above ground level using a system containing eight resistance thermometer devices, mounted in a row at different spacings. Measurements were made flying this system under a tethered balloon or mounted on a telescoping mast. The temperature structure function parameter, , can be estimated from the temperature fluctuations measured by the 28 different probe pairs and the unique distances between the two probes. Finally, is estimated from this temperature structure function parameter and compared to values predicted by a turbulence profile model.
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