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Ian M. Brooks
Andreas K. Goroch
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David P. Rogers


Ducting of microwave radiation is a common phenomenon over the oceans. The height and strength of the duct are controlling factors for radar propagation and must be determined accurately to assess propagation ranges. A surface evaporation duct commonly forms due to the large gradient in specific humidity just above the sea surface; a deeper surface-based or elevated duct frequently is associated with the sudden change in temperature and humidity across the boundary layer inversion.

In April 1996 the U.K. Meteorological Office C-130 Hercules research aircraft took part in the U.S. Navy Ship Antisubmarine Warfare Readiness/Effectiveness Measuring exercise (SHAREM-115) in the Persian Gulf by providing meteorological support and making measurements for the study of electromagnetic and electro-optical propagation. The boundary layer structure over the Gulf is influenced strongly by the surrounding desert landmass. Warm dry air flows from the desert over the cooler waters of the Gulf. Heat loss to the surface results in the formation of a stable internal boundary layer. The layer evolves continuously along wind, eventually forming a new marine atmospheric boundary layer. The stable stratification suppresses vertical mixing, trapping moisture within the layer and leading to an increase in refractive index and the formation of a strong boundary layer duct. A surface evaporation duct coexists with the boundary layer duct.

In this paper the authors present aircraft- and ship-based observations of both the surface evaporation and boundary layer ducts. A series of sawtooth aircraft profiles map the boundary layer structure and provide spatially distributed estimates of the duct depth. The boundary layer duct is found to have considerable spatial variability in both depth and strength, and to evolve along wind over distances significant to naval operations (∼100 km). The depth of the evaporation duct is derived from a bulk parameterization based on Monin–Obukhov similarity theory using near-surface data taken by the C-130 during low-level (30 m) flight legs and by ship-based instrumentation. Good agreement is found between the two datasets. The estimated evaporation ducts are found to be generally uniform in depth; however, localized regions of greatly increased depth are observed on one day, and a marked change in boundary layer structure resulting in merging of the surface evaporation duct with the deeper boundary layer duct was observed on another. Both of these cases occurred within exceptionally shallow boundary layers (⩽100 m), where the mean evaporation duct depths were estimated to be between 12 and 17 m. On the remaining three days the boundary layer depth was between 200 and 300 m, and evaporation duct depths were estimated to be between 20 and 35 m, varying by just a few meters over ranges of up to 200 km.

The one-way radar propagation factor is modeled for a case with a pronounced change in duct depth. The case is modeled first with a series of measured profiles to define as accurately as possible the refractivity structure of the boundary layer, then with a single profile collocated with the radar antenna and assuming homogeneity. The results reveal large errors in the propagation factor when derived from a single profile.

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