Results are presented from a pilot study using a fluorescent dye tracer imaged by airborne lidar in the ocean surface layer on spatial scales of meters to kilometers and temporal scales of minutes to hours. The lidar used here employs a scanning, frequency-doubled Nd:YAG laser to emit an infrared (1064 nm) and green (532 nm) pulse 6 ns in duration at a rate of 1 kHz. The received signal is split to infrared, green, and fluorescent (nominally 580–600 nm) channels, the latter two of which are used to compute absolute dye concentration as a function of depth and horizontal position. Comparison of dye concentrations inferred from the lidar with in situ fluorometry measurements made by ship shows good agreement both qualitatively and quantitatively for absolute dye concentrations ranging from 1 to >10 ppb. Uncertainties associated with horizontal variations in the natural seawater attenuation are approximately 1 ppb. The results demonstrate the ability of airborne lidar to capture high-resolution three-dimensional “snapshots” of the distribution of the tracer as it evolves over very short time and space scales. Such measurements offer a powerful observational tool for studies of transport and mixing on these scales.