Long-term observations of aerosol and clouds are of crucial importance to understand the weather climate system. At the Istituto di Metodologie per l'Analisi Ambientale of the Italian National Research Council (CNR-IMAA) an advanced atmospheric observatory, named CIAO, is operative. CIAO (CNR-IMAA Atmospheric Observatory) main scientific objective is the long term measurement for the climatology of aerosol and cloud properties. Its equipment addresses the state-of-the-art for the ground-based remote sensing of aerosol, water vapour and clouds including active and passive sensors, like lidars, ceilometers, radiometers, and a radar. This paper describes the CIAO infrastructure, its scientific activities as well as the observation strategy. The observation strategy is mainly organized in order to provide quality assured measurements for satellite validation and model evaluation and to fully exploit the synergy and integration of the active and passive sensors for the improvement of atmospheric profiling. Data quality is ensured both by the application of protocols and dedicated quality assurance programs mainly related to the projects and networks in which the infrastructure is involved. The paper also introduces examples of observations performed at CIAO and of the synergies and integration algorithms (using Raman lidar and microwave profiler data) developed and implemented at the observatory for the optimization and improvement of water vapour profiling. CIAO database represents an optimal basis to study the synergy between different sensors and to investigate aerosol-clouds interactions, and can give a significant contribution to the validation programs of the incoming new generation satellite missions.
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