Electromagnetic wave propagation through simulated atmospheric refractivity fields


  • Kenneth E. Gilbert,

  • Xiao Di,

  • Samir Khanna,

  • Martin J. Otte,

  • John C. Wyngaard


Large-eddy simulation (LES) provides three-dimensional, time-dependent fields of turbulent refractivity in the atmospheric boundary layer on spatial scales down to a few tens of meters. These fields are directly applicable to the computation of electromagnetic (EM) wave propagation in the megahertz range but not in the gigahertz range. We present an approximate technique for extending LES refractivity fields to the smaller scales needed for calculating EM propagation at gigahertz frequencies. We demonstrate the technique by computing refractivity fields through 1283 LES, extending them to smaller scales in two dimensions, and using them in a parabolic equation EM propagation model. At 0.263 GHz the very small scale structure in the extended fields has a negligible effect on the predicted EM levels. At 2 GHz, however, it increases the predicted levels by 15–25 dB. We relate these results to the refractivity structure sampled by EM waves at 0.263 and 2 GHz. We also show that at long range an EM field calculated through an LES-based refractivity field is generally less coherent and significantly weaker than one computed from a “plywood” (i.e., stratified, range-independent) model of the small-scale refractivity field. We give a physical explanation for the differences in the EM fields computed in these two ways. Finally, although the plywood model gives results that fit the EM levels observed in the recent Variability of Coastal Atmospheric Refractivity (VOCAR) experiment, it is not physically realistic. The instantaneous top of the atmospheric boundary layer is known to be sharp and horizontally varying, and we show that using such a top also yields a fit to the VOCAR data.