Radio Tomography for Atmospheric Science

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Electronic and Electrical Engineering

Abstract

The recently released United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report 2013, has highlighted a number of significant changes to our global climate. In particular there are indications that there are significant changes in the global hydrological cycle which governs the amount of rainfall we receive and an increased likelihood of the occurrence of certain types of extreme weather conditions. Although, there is no compelling evidence for increased occurrence of severe weather phenomena such as thunderstorms, this caused by the relative lack of small-scale high-resolution observations. Flooding from rain and thunderstorms is the leading cause of deaths associated with natural disasters, being responsible for almost 7 million deaths in the 20th century.

Critically while the general lifecycle of thunderstorms is very well understood, the exact circumstances leading to the development of large thunderstorms are still something of a mystery. The computer based models run by the world's meteorological agencies to predict such events have been continuously improving but are reaching the point where their accuracy is being limited by the number, quality and type of observations (measurements) essential to their operation.

The aim of this research project is to build a new instrument that will be able to make valuable new measurements which will strengthen our understanding of the development of severe thunderstorms. This project will build an instrument that jointly maps moisture fluxes and atmospheric electrical activity with a view to enabling science to better understand the conditions leading up to the formation of thunderstorms. Specifically, the project will develop network of instruments which will produce images using techniques similar to those used in MRI medical imaging scanners. The improved understanding of the formation of thunderstorms will greatly assist the prediction of severe weather and allow better warnings to be issued reducing the risk to human life and property.

Planned Impact

The most immediate beneficiaries in terms of the impact of the project are the project partners on this proposal. However in the longer term the technology to be developed in this project has the potential to make a significant impact to improvements to accuracy and timeliness of forecasts of severe weather. In this regard the proposal has potential to have a significant impact on the assessment and management of flood risk making all UK citizens potential beneficiaries.

Economic impact: commercial exploitation by UK SMEs

1. Chronos Technology: In addition to providing expertise on timing and frequency synchronisation the partnership with Chronos offers a potential route to market for commercial exploitation. The University of Bath has a successful existing working relationship with Chronos as a partner in two TSB projects GAARDIAN and SENTINEL. The projects deployed a sensor network of over 30 nodes in strategic location to monitor GPS signals. Similar the sensor developed in this project could potentially be integrated into this system. Intellectual property developed at Bath is currently licensed for use in a number of Chronos commercial products for GPS signal monitoring.

2. Bristol Industrial & Research Associates Ltd. (Biral): is a UK based designer, manufacturer and distributor of instruments for weather measurements, aerosol size, shape and fluorescence analysis and biological detection of airborne hazards. The newly developed sensors currently have the ability to detect lightning discharges at short range distances and options for similar developments to cover long range distances are being explored. As a result, Biral could provide a potential route-to-market and assist with the manufacturing of the novel sensor technology proposed to be developed here.

Impact arising from new data products: end-users

1. Met Office is a potential beneficiary of the research and a project partner. Met Office provided seed-corn funding for the initial examination of the DAB data and is willing to offer in-kind support for the proposal. Specifically this includes access to surface and GPS data for validation and assistance with the provision of sites for the equipment. With the move towards "convective-scale" NWP with grid lengths of around 1 km, there is a critical need for observation data on similar scales to assimilate into the model. Assimilation of water vapour fields into NWP models in pre-storm conditions has the potential to make a substantial impact on the forecast ability of extreme high-intensity convective events.

2. Environment Agency is also potential beneficiary of research. Flood and coastal risk management is one of the ten Environment Agency supporting strategies for 2010-2015. The ability to understand and manage the risk from river and surface flooding is directly connected to the ability of forecast models and observations to produce meaningful and timely data. The impact of this project on the Environment Agency is likely to be indirect through improved high-resolution forecasts via Met Office products. However, the Environment Agency does operate a large number of field stations which may be suitable sites for sensor nodes.
 
Description A novel broadband radio receiver demonstrator was build and tested. Novel tomographic signal processing software was developed. This novel software enables the mapping of the low frequency radio sky which was not known to date. The key novelty is that the sky can be imaged as it would appear to living beings on planet Earth if they would have receptors for low frequency radio waves. The high resolution mapping enabled the detection of the most subtle multipath propagation of low frequency radio waves.
Exploitation Route It is planned to build a network of radio receiver for boundary layer humidity mapping and the detection of of preliminary breakdown inside thunderclouds prior to lightining discharges.
In addition, the mapping of the radio sky enables an imaging of the sky as it would appear to living beings on planet Earth. It is planned to expand this imaging to lightning discharges and noise of yet unknown origin.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Environment

 
Description The first demonstrator of a novel broadband radio receiver has been build and tested. The tomographic data analysis was developed and resulted in seven publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals. It is expected that this line of research opens the avenue for numerous novel studies of the low frequency radio sky, the development of digital radio camera to observed the radio sky, and possibly to applications for autonomous vehicles.
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Environment
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description Impact of lightning discharges on the lower ionosphere near the South African Square Kilometre Array
Amount £11,900 (GBP)
Funding ID NMG_R1_180252 
Organisation The Royal Society 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2018 
End 08/2020
 
Description Marie Curie ITN
Amount € 3,996,875 (EUR)
Funding ID MSCA-ITN-ETN-722337 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 03/2017 
End 03/2021
 
Title Data for Lightning Sferics: Complex Waveform Analysis 
Description Data for figures in the publication 'Lightning Sferics: Analysis of the Instantaneous Phase and Frequency Inferred From Complex Waveforms'. The dataset contains the averaged lightning waveforms at different distances, and the code is used to produce each figure in publication. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
 
Title Data for Mapping Lightning in the Sky with a Mini Array 
Description Data for Mapping Lightning in the Sky with a Mini Array 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
 
Title Data for the publication 'First Map of Coherent Low Frequency Continuum Radiation in the Sky' 
Description This data is to illustrate the theory, data analysis, and exemplary results of the array processing described in the corresponding publication entitled 'First map of coherent low frequency continuum radiation in the sky'. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
 
Title Data for the publication 'Maximum sprite streamer luminosity near the stratopause' 
Description This data is to illustrate the results described in the corresponding publication entitled 'Maximum sprite streamer luminosity near the stratopause'. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
 
Title Data for the publication: 'Detection of low frequency continuum radiation' 
Description These data illustrate the theory, data analysis, and exemplary results of the array processing described in the corresponding publication entitled 'Detection of low frequency continuum radiation'. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
 
Title Dataset for Radio Science "Lower ionosphere effects on narrowband VLF transmission propagation: fast variabilities and frequency dependence" 
Description The data are processed from electric field recordings from an array network and shows the disturbance on a VLF (very low frequency) transmission attributed to lower ionospheric electrical properties. The micro-second time resolution received transmission (filtered and frequency shifted to baseband) averaged across the receivers in the network are contained in a MatLab binary (.mat) file. The disturbance on the transmitted signal is obtained by comparing to a simulated transmission. The MatLab scripts to perform this processing are provided. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
 
Title Geophysical Research Letters, 2016 
Description Radio science data set for Geophysical Research Letters, 2016 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Public data without access control. 
URL http://dx.doi.org/10.15125BATH-00243
 
Title Ionospheric signals from sub-ionospheric radio transmissions on 2016 August 27 
Description Data collected from a wideband radio receiver in Bath, UK was analysed to obtain ionospheric signals from narrow band sub-ionospheric radio transmissions. The transmissions analysed in the dataset are callsigns GBZ (19.58kHz), GQD (22.1kHz), DHO (23.4kHz) and MSF (60kHz). The ionospheric signals reveal perturbations in the ionosphere along the propagation paths of the transmissions during the period of measurement on 2016 August 27. The dataset includes the processed ionospheric signals in Matlab binary format together with scripts that were used to obtain the ionospheric signals from the raw radio data. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
 
Title Radio Science 2015 - data 
Description Radio science data 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Public data base without access control. 
URL http://dx.doi.org/10.15125/BATH-00121
 
Title Radio Science, 2016 
Description Radio science data for publication, 2016 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Public data without access control. 
URL https://doi.org/10.15125/BATH-00242
 
Description CTR Wilson Institute for Atmospheric Electricity 
Organisation University of Bristol
Department School of Physics
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The collaboration resulted in a virtual institute, named CTR Wilson Institute for Atmospheric Electricity. The contribution from the University of Bath is to hold the annual CTR Wilson Meetings for Atmospheric Electricity and the setup of a website at ctrwiae.org
Collaborator Contribution The other partners assist with the organisation of the above meetings and to spread the knowledge on atmospheric electricity in the UK, in particular within the Royal Meteorological Society, the Royal Astronomical Society, and the International Union of Radio Science.
Impact http://ctrwiae.org http://witter.com/atmos_elect http://twitter.com/ctrwiae
Start Year 2013
 
Description CTR Wilson Institute for Atmospheric Electricity 
Organisation University of Oxford
Department Oxford School of Public Health
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The collaboration resulted in a virtual institute, named CTR Wilson Institute for Atmospheric Electricity. The contribution from the University of Bath is to hold the annual CTR Wilson Meetings for Atmospheric Electricity and the setup of a website at ctrwiae.org
Collaborator Contribution The other partners assist with the organisation of the above meetings and to spread the knowledge on atmospheric electricity in the UK, in particular within the Royal Meteorological Society, the Royal Astronomical Society, and the International Union of Radio Science.
Impact http://ctrwiae.org http://witter.com/atmos_elect http://twitter.com/ctrwiae
Start Year 2013
 
Description CTR Wilson Institute for Atmospheric Electricity 
Organisation University of Reading
Department Institute for Cardiovascular and Metabolic Research
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The collaboration resulted in a virtual institute, named CTR Wilson Institute for Atmospheric Electricity. The contribution from the University of Bath is to hold the annual CTR Wilson Meetings for Atmospheric Electricity and the setup of a website at ctrwiae.org
Collaborator Contribution The other partners assist with the organisation of the above meetings and to spread the knowledge on atmospheric electricity in the UK, in particular within the Royal Meteorological Society, the Royal Astronomical Society, and the International Union of Radio Science.
Impact http://ctrwiae.org http://witter.com/atmos_elect http://twitter.com/ctrwiae
Start Year 2013
 
Description MetOffice 
Organisation Meteorological Office UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The NERC grant led to a collaboration with the MetOffice. The contribution of the University of Bath to the MetOffice is to assist with design of the ATD lightning detection network and to promote the use of MetOffice lightning data in the scientific community. The collaboration is formalised by a PhD student who is working in close collaboration with the MetOffice and numerous projects were held in Exeter and Bath. The collaboration resulted in 2 joint publications thus far (Geophysical Research Letters and Radio Science).
Collaborator Contribution The MetOffice assisted with the funding of a PhD student and the necessary equipment to conduct the necessary scientific studies.
Impact (1) M. Füllekrug, Z. Liu, K. Koh, A. Mezentsev, S. Pedeboy, S. Soula, S. Enno, J. Sugier, M. Rycroft, Mapping lightning in the sky with mini-array, Geophysical Research Letters, 43, doi:10.1002/2016GL070737, 1-7, 2016. (2) Z. Liu, K. Koh, A. Mezentsev, S. Enno, J. Sugier, and M. Füllekrug Variable phase propagation velocity for long-range lightning location system, Radio Science, 51, 10.1002/2016RS006058, 1-10, 2016. (3) Several contributions to scientific conferences.
Start Year 2013