Measurement of correlation functions and power spectra in clouds using the NRL WARLOC radar

Arne W. Fliflet, Wallace M. Manheimer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Naval Research Laboratory W-band Advanced Radar for Low Observable Control (WARLOC) is a high-power 94-GHz radar, with 3-10-kW average and 80-kW peak power, now set up on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. It has three orders of magnitude more power and sensitivity than other W-band radar systems. This enables cloud reflectivity to be measured with high signal-to-noise ratios and a resolution of about 15 m over a two (or three)-dimensional region, which can be as large as tens of kilometers on a side. This allows imaging of the internal structure of clouds over great distances in very great detail. At the shortest scale lengths, the structure has a speckle pattern indicating that it is governed at least in part by stochastic processes. The WARLOC data allow the reflectivity correlation function and its Fourier transform, which is the power spectrum, to be computed for scale lengths ranging from 30 m to 10 km. For measurements taken of cirrus clouds on several occasions as well as one case of a precipitating cloud, it was found that for small correlation distance r, the correlation function usually decreases as r 2/3, or, equivalently, the wavenumber spectrum scales as k -5/3, where k is the wavenumber. This suggests that fluid turbulence in the inertial range is playing a role; however, unlike classical fluid turbulence, the results suggest that the turbulence here is generally quite anisotropic. Furthermore, for longer scale lengths (the outer range according to the Kolmogorov theory), the reflectivity fluctuations usually show a wavelike behavior in the vertical direction but only occasionally in the horizontal direction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1717719
Pages (from-to)3247-3261
Number of pages15
JournalIEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Clouds
  • Gyrotrons
  • Millimeter-wave radar

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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