High Altitude Infrasound Measurements using Balloon-Borne Arrays

Friday, 18 December 2015: 17:15
307 (Moscone South)
Daniel C Bowman1, C. Scott Johnson2, Rachana A. Gupta2, Jacob Anderson3, Jonathan M Lees1, Douglas Patrick Drob4 and Dennis Phillips5, (1)University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, United States, (2)North Carolina State University, Department of Electrical Engineering, Raleigh, NC, United States, (3)Boise State University, Boise, ID, United States, (4)Naval Research Lab, Washington, DC, United States, (5)Michigan State University, Department of Computer Science & Engineering, East Lansing, MI, United States
For the last fifty years, almost all infrasound sensors have been located on the Earth's surface. A few experiments consisting of microphones on poles and tethered aerostats comprise the remainder. Such surface and near-surface arrays likely do not capture the full diversity of acoustic signals in the atmosphere. Here, we describe results from a balloon mounted infrasound array that reached altitudes of up to 38 km (the middle stratosphere). The balloon drifted at the ambient wind speed, resulting in a near total reduction in wind noise. Signals consistent with tropospheric turbulence were detected. A spectral peak in the ocean microbarom range (0.12 - 0.35 Hz) was present on balloon-mounted sensors but not on static infrasound stations near the flight path. A strong 18 Hz signal, possibly related to building ventilation systems, was observed in the stratosphere. A wide variety of other narrow band acoustic signals of uncertain provenance were present throughout the flight, but were absent in simultaneous recordings from nearby ground stations. Similar phenomena were present in spectrograms from the last balloon infrasound campaign in the 1960s. Our results suggest that the infrasonic wave field in the stratosphere is very different from that which is readily detectable on surface stations. This has implications for modeling acoustic energy transfer between the lower and upper atmosphere as well as the detection of novel acoustic signals that never reach the ground. Our work provides valuable constraints on a proposed mission to detect earthquakes on Venus using balloon-borne infrasound sensors.