Spatial and temporal variations in acoustic propagation characteristics at the New England shelfbreak front

J F Lynch, A E Newhall, B Sperry, G Gawarkiewicz, A Fredricks, P Tyack, C S Chiu, P Abbot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


The spatial and temporal variability of the acoustic field in the region of a strong coastal shelfbreak front are examined, using the high-resolution environmental data from the 1996-1997 New England shelfbreak PRIMER experiment to provide input to acoustic propagation models. Specifically, the "SeaSoar"undulating conductivity-temperature-depth (CTD) probe across-shelf transects provide 1-km along-track resolution, including the front, during the spring, summer, and winter seasons. These data allow one to study the diurnal and seasonal temporal variation of the acoustic field, as well as the varying spatial structure of the field. Using the RAM parabolic equation code, across-shelf acoustic field structure at 200, 400, and 1000 Hz is studied for various source depths. A number of interesting propagation effects are noted, the most interesting of which are the inhibition of strong acoustic-bottom interaction by the warm shelf water beneath the shelfbreak front and the existence of small-scale ducts near the front, due to offshore transport. Data from the vertical line arrays deployed as part of PRIMER offer partial validation of the predictions made. Specifically, it is seen that the mean received levels are in reasonable accord with propagation calculations made using locally measured bottom properties an the SeaSoar water-column measurements. However, due to the scattering of sound by strong nonlinear internal-wave (solitons), the low-frequency variability seen in the acoustic data is less than that predicted solely on the basis of SeaSoar records, which preferentially samples the oceanography on scales larger than internal waves.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-150
Number of pages22
JournalIEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2003


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