Sensitivity of Radar Wave Propagation Power to the Marine Atmospheric Boundary Layer

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Nathan Lentini and Erin E Hackett, Coastal Carolina University, School of Coastal and Marine Systems Science, Conway, SC, United States
Radar is a remote sensor used for scientific, meteorological, and military applications. Radar waves are affected by the medium through which they propagate, impacting the accuracy of radar measurements. Thus, environmental effects should be understood and quantified. The marine atmospheric boundary layer (MABL) is highly dynamic and turbulent, and affects radar wave propagation. The ocean surface roughness impacts scattering behavior. These effects cause variability in constructive and destructive interference patterns due to reflection from the ocean surface, known as multipath. The atmospheric effects cause radar waves to attenuate and refract; this study focuses on the refractive effects. A high-fidelity, physics-based, parabolic wave equation simulation is used to model the radar propagation and accounts for effects of the rough ocean surface (wind seas and swell) as well as variable refractivity with height and range. We use a robust, variance based, sensitivity analysis method called the Extended Fourier Amplitude Sensitivity Test to quantify which environmental parameters have the most significant effect on the modeled radar wave propagation. In this sensitivity study, the environment is parameterized by 16 variables, 8 ocean surface and 8 atmospheric. Sensitivity analysis is performed for 3 radar frequencies (3, 9, and 15 GHz) and 2 polarizations (horizontal and vertical). Results indicate that radar wave propagation is more sensitive to atmospheric parameters than ocean surface parameters. The mixed layer has the most far-reaching effect over the entire model domain (a range of 60 km and altitudes up to 1 km), characterized by its height and refractivity gradient. The remaining important factors have a predominantly local effect in the region where they occur in the MABL atmospheric structure. At low altitudes, radar wave propagation power is most sensitive to the gradient and curvature of the vertical refractivity profile. This research provides insight into which aspects of the environment would need to be known with high accuracy to enable corrections for these environmental effects.