EARLINET, the European Aerosol Research Lidar Network, (www.earlinet.org) is the first aerosol lidar network, established in 2000, with the main goal to provide a comprehensive, quantitative, and statistically significant data base for the aerosol distribution on a continental scale.

EARLINET is now integrated in the FP7 EU research infrastructure project ACTRIS (Aerosols, Clouds, and Trace gases Research InfraStructure Network, www.actris.net) that will, for the first time, provide coordinated observations of the major atmospheric variables Since 2000, EARLINET has developed greatly in terms of number of stations and spatial distribution: from 17 stations in 10 countries in 2000 to 27 stations in 16 countries in 2013. EARLINET has developed greatly also in terms of technological advances with the spread of advanced multi-wavelength Raman lidar stations in Europe. The developments for the quality assurance strategy, the optimization of instruments and data processing, and the dissemination of data have contributed to a significant improvement of the network towards a more sustainable observing system, with an increase in the observing capability and a reduction of operational costs. Consequently, EARLINET data have already been extensively used for many climatological studies, long-range transport events, Saharan dust outbreaks, plumes from volcanic eruptions, and for model evaluation and satellite data validation and integration.

Thanks to recent optimization of instruments, data processing schemes, and strict quality assurance, EARLINET is evolving towards a more advanced and sustainable observing system, resulting in an increase of the observing capability (more stations and more advanced lidar instruments) and a reduction of costs of operations (best technical solutions, sustainable quality assurance strategies, and data processing). As a consequence, the EARLINET database will include a series of further aerosol parameters, and the extent of the database can grow faster than before. The future availability of EARLINET near-real-time vertical profiles will be an important step for the assimilation of lidar data into models and will result in a strong contribution to the Copernicus program and to the WMO SDS-WAS.