The IAP was founded in January 1992. The headquarters is located in Kühlungsborn and a branch in Juliusruh on the island of Rügen. The research topics concentrate on the terrestrial atmosphere, in particular on the dynamical coupling between various layers from the troposphere up to the lower thermosphere (approx. 100 km).
The IAP consists of three departments: Optical soundings, Radar soundings and sounding rockets, and Theory and Modeling. Ground-based remote optical sounding is performed by various laser instruments (‘lidars’ = light detecting and ranging) with wavelengths from infrared to ultraviolet. Atmospheric parameters such as densities and temperatures are deduced from the backscattered laser light. Special emphasis is placed on the investigation of ice particles in the summer mesopause region, known as "noctilucent clouds". The global distribution of ice layers is also investigated by modelling. Instruments on sounding rockets are applied to investigate small-scale structures (turbulence), plasma, and dust particles. Radars with frequencies in the MF and VHF range are used to measure winds and turbulence in the troposphere and mesosphere. Furthermore, physical processes leading to very strong summer and winter echoes in the mesosphere are investigated. Long-term trends of these parameters and in the background atmosphere are also studied. Theoretical methods and numerical models are applied to study physical and chemical processes in the atmosphere. The investigations concentrate on dynamical coupling between various height ranges, and on the generation, propagation, and breaking of atmospheric waves on various scales.
The research topics at the IAP focus on the mesosphere (50-90 km) at middle and polar latitudes. The IAP therefore operates several lidars and radars as part of the ALOMAR observatory in Northern Norway (69°N). The scientific investigations concern processes leading to the thermal and dynamical structure of the atmosphere, including long-term changes.