Passive acoustic detection and measurement of rainfall at sea

Barry Ma and Jeffrey A. Nystuen

Applied Physics Laboratory
Univeristy of Washington
Seattle, Washington

Abstract: Rainfall over the ocean is one of the most important climatic parameters for both oceanic and atmospheric science. Traditional accumulation-type rain gauges are difficult to operate at sea, and so an alternative technique using underwater sound has been developed. The technique of passive monitoring of the ocean rainfall using ambient sound depends on the accuracy of sound pressure level (SPL) detection. Consequently, absolute calibration of the hydrophone is desirable, but is difficult to achieve because typically the geometry of the laboratory calibration process does not fit the measurement geometry over the ocean. However, if one assumes that the sound signal that is generated by wind is universal then the wind signal can be used to provide an absolute calibration. Over 90 months of ambient sound spectra have been collected on the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO) project array since 1998. By applying the Vagle et al. wind speed algorithm, the instrument noises and sensitivity bias for the absolute calibration of each acoustic rain gauge (ARG) are obtained. An acoustic discrimination process is developed to retrieve the pure geophysical signals. A new single-frequency rainfall-rate algorithm is proposed after comparing the ARG data with R.M. Young self-siphoning rain gauge data, co-located on the same moorings. The acoustic discrimination process and the rainfall algorithm are further tested at two other locations and are compared with R.M. Young rain gauges and the Tropical Rain Measuring Mission (TRMM) product 3B42. The acoustic rainfall accumulations show comparable results in both long (year) and short (hours) time scales.

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