The Pierre Auger Observatory is a facility built to detect air showers produced by cosmic rays above 10^17 eV. During clear nights with a low illuminated moon fraction, the UV fluorescence light produced by air showers is recorded by optical telescopes at the Observatory. To correct the observations for variations in atmospheric conditions, atmospheric monitoring is performed at regular intervals ranging from several minutes (for cloud identification) to several hours (for aerosol conditions) to several days (for vertical profiles of temperature, pressure, and humidity). In 2009, the monitoring program was upgraded to allow for additional targeted measurements of atmospheric conditions shortly after the detection of air showers of special interest, e. g., showers produced by very high-energy cosmic rays or showers with atypical longitudinal profiles. The former events are of particular importance for the determination of the energy scale of the Observatory, and the latter are characteristic of unusual air shower physics or exotic primary particle types. The purpose of targeted (or “rapid”) monitoring is to improve the resolution of the atmospheric measurements for such events. In this paper, we report on the implementation of the rapid monitoring program and its current status. The rapid monitoring data have been analyzed and applied to the reconstruction of air showers of high interest, and indicate that the air fluorescence measurements affected by clouds and aerosols are effectively corrected using measurements from the regular atmospheric monitoring program. We find that the rapid monitoring program has potential for supporting dedicated physics analyses beyond the standard event reconstruction.
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