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Earth Curvature and Atmospheric
Refraction Effects on Radar Signal
Propagation

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SAND2012-10690

Unlimited Release

Printed January 2013

**Earth Curvature and Atmospheric
**

Refraction Effects on Radar Signal

Propagation

Armin W. Doerry

Prepared by

Sandia National Laboratories

Albuquerque, New Mexico 87185 and Livermore, California 94550

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SAND2012-10690

Unlimited Release

Printed January 2013

**Earth Curvature and Atmospheric
**

Refraction Effects on Radar Signal

Propagation

Armin W. Doerry

ISR Mission Engineering

Sandia National Laboratories

Albuquerque, NM 87185-0519

Abstract

The earth isn’t flat, and radar beams don’t travel straight. This becomes more noticeable

as range increases, particularly at shallow depression/grazing angles. This report explores

models for characterizing this behavior.

-3-

Acknowledgements

The production of this report is a result of an unfunded Internal Research and

Development effort.

-4-

.............................1 The Constant 4/3 Earth Model .................................................................................... 10 2.........................2...................5 Recommendations ....... 15 3......... 27 3...............3............................................................................................................................................... 9 2. 21 3.................................................................................... 8 2.......................................... 39 Distribution .................................................... 7 2 The Basic Equations ............................................................................................... 20 3..................................... 15 3...............................................................2 Iterative Numerical Integration with Approximations................................................................................................1 Refraction vs......3..................................................................... 12 2...................4 A Comparison of Models and Methods ...........................4 The Radar Horizon .......................................................................................... 22 3.............................. 35 4 Conclusions ........ 25 3.....5 Examples ................................................................................................3 Elevated Target Surface ..................................... Altitude ............................................. 37 References ..................................2 Estimation Method 1 Average k ............... 35 3..... 40 -5- ...........................................2................................ 11 2............2 Non-line-of-sight Propagation..................................................2............................................1 Line-of-sight Propagation ........................... 13 3 More on Refractivity ......... 6 1 Introduction ...........................3 Numerical Integration ...................................................................... 21 3........................................................................6 More Discussion ..........3 Estimation Method 2 Average Radius of Curvature........................................................................................ 28 3............................................................................2 Effective Earth’s Radius Models...........................................................................................................................1 Iterative Numerical Integration ...... 19 3...Contents Foreword ....................................

The specific mathematics and algorithms presented herein do not bear any release restrictions or distribution limitations. -6- .1 The distribution limitation of the earlier report was limited to “Internal Distribution” merely because of the publication vehicle being an Internal Memorandum. February 23. Sandia has adopted this guidance where otherwise none has been given.Foreword This report is an updated and enhanced version of a previous limited distribution report. This distribution limitations of this report are in accordance with the classification guidance detailed in the memorandum “Classification Guidance Recommendations for Sandia Radar Testbed Research and Development”. RF Remote Sensing Systems. This report details the results of an academic study. methodologies. This report formalizes preexisting informal notes and other documentation on the subject matter herein. NA-22). with no other particular reason for restricting its Unlimited Release. chosen at the time arbitrarily. Electronic Systems Center) to Randy Bell (US Department of Energy. 2004. DRAFT memorandum from Brett Remund (Deputy Director. It does not presently exemplify any modes. or techniques employed by any operational system known to the authors.

Application to optimizing SNR for a particular range swath will be deferred to a future report. Ultimately. This aspect is beyond the scope of this report and will be deferred to a subsequent report. particularly at long ranges and shallow depression angles. just where exactly do we point the antenna?” Furthermore we ask “Just what exactly is the grazing angle at the target?” The typical assumption for many radar systems is that the earth is sufficiently flat so that the depression angle at the aircraft is the same as the grazing angle at the target. While this isn’t too bad for relatively low-flying aircraft and relatively near-range geometries. and ultimately ranging accuracy via the velocity of propagation. In space it is imperative to account for earth curvature. it falls apart as ranges approach the radar horizon from higher altitudes. Another aspect of refraction is its influence on radar echo timing. or range swath. Herein we concern ourselves strictly with the refraction and curved earth phenomena.1 Introduction The question that we ultimately seek to answer is “To see a given range. we expect the utility of this analysis to be in facilitating antenna pointing to optimize radar echo Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) for a desired range swath. -7- .

which is reasonable for the task at hand. Parameters are defined as Re = radius of the earth. Figure 1.2 The Basic Equations The modifications to geometry and trigonometry equations for including earth curvature aren’t too bad. ha = altitude of aircraft. R = range from aircraft to surface target. especially when we consider the earth as spherical in nature. e = earth surface angular change. Spherical earth geometry. nominally 6378 km. -8- (1) . Consider the situation in Figure 1. d = depression angle at aircraft (positive below horizontal). and g = grazing angle at target (positive above horizontal).

cos e 1 2 Re Re ha 2 (2) In addition. we know that for this trigonometry e d g . and R 2 Re 2 Re R ha2 . It should be noted that typical radar systems presume an ellipsoidal earth for navigation and pointing. the appropriate angles are calculated to be sin d ha ha R 1 . (4) The arc length along the earth’s surface between nadir and the target is given by d Ree . This is also not strictly correct.1 Line-of-sight Propagation Finding the appropriate angles from the various distance measures is an exercise in the application of the Law of Cosines for planar triangles. R 2Re ha 2Re ha sin g ha h R 1 a . but with line-ofsight propagation also for pointing the antenna. but is good enough for the purposes of this report. this is wrong. or R Re sin g Re2 sin 2 g 2 Re ha ha2 . Assuming that propagation is line-of-sight. Unfortunately. (3) Furthermore. of course.2. is that the radar beam propagates along the line-of-sight from aircraft to target. -9- . A secondary presumption here is that the earth is spherical. the range R can be calculated as R Re ha sin d Re2 Re ha 2 cos 2 d . (5) The presumption for all of this. or at best not quite right.

A common ‘trick’ is to account for this by presuming the earth possessing a larger radius than it really has.2 Note also that a flat earth is essentially the case where k . This refraction allows the radar to ‘see’ beyond the horizon somewhat. etc.2. (10) . the arc length along the earth’s surface between nadir and the target is given by d kRee . frequency. or kRe 2 sin 2 g 2kRe ha ha2 . and that the perfect value for k will change somewhat with altitude. and R 2kRe ha 2kRe ha sin g ha h R 1 a . depression and grazing angles are calculated as sin d ha ha R 1 . 2kRe kRe ha 2 (9) We will assume that the surface distance of the increased earth-radius model is reasonably and acceptably equivalent to that of the actual earth-radius model. The propagation path range can be estimated from the angles as R kRe ha sin d kRe 2 kRe ha 2 cos2 d .10 - . Consequently. Often a factor of k = 4/3 is used. R kRe sin g (7) We now define the increased earth-radius model earth-radius angular change as e d g . Consequently.2 Non-line-of-sight Propagation The atmosphere is not homogeneous and usually causes the radar energy to bend towards the earth. by some factor k. (8) and note that cose 1 R ha2 . R 2kRe 2kRe (6) Note that k = 4/3 is merely a convenient approximation. much like a lens. atmospheric conditions.

and as before e d g . (14) . at the target altitude. (12) Furthermore. and sin g a R 2kRe hs 2kRe hs R 2 ha hs 2 . R kRe ha sin d R kRe hs sin g kRe hs 2 kRe ha 2 cos2 d . R 2kRe ha 2kRe ha h hs 1 ha hs R .11 - . cose 1 2kRe hs kRe ha sin d (11) where hs = target surface altitude.3 Elevated Target Surface If the target surface is at a non-zero altitude above the surface of the spherical earth. or kRe hs 2 sin 2 g 2kRe hs ha hs ha hs 2 . (13) The arc length along the earth’s surface between nadir and the target. then the equations are modified to ha hs 1 ha hs R . is now given by d kRe hs e .2.

with hs 0 .km Figure 2. then Rhorizon 2kRe hs ha hs ha hs 2 2kRe ha . Note that the propagation path range to the radar horizon will vary as nearly k . (15) The approximation is for aircraft altitudes much larger than target surface altitude.4 The Radar Horizon The radar horizon is defined as that propagation path range R that yields a grazing angle g 0 . Radar horizon vs. This equation is plotted for a k = 4/3 earth model.12 - 3 10 . in Figure 2. . kRe ha d .kft geometric 4/3 earth model 1 10 0 10 1 10 2 10 radar horizon .2. If we assume an elevated target surface with height hs .horizon acos (16) 2 10 height . The corresponding depression angle is kRe hs . altitude for 4/3 earth model.

Consider a sea-level target as seen from an airborne radar at 25 kft altitude. and differs from the geometric depression angle by only about 0. range from 10 kft altitude.2. Depression and grazing angles vs.13 - 3 10 .4o. Figure 5 plots the depression angle and grazing angle out to the radar horizon. . the 4/3 earth model’s depression angle differs from the flat earth model’s depression angle by about 0.25o. For this geometry. and differs from the geometric depression angle by only about 0. at the radar horizon.95o.5 Examples Consider a sea-level target as seen from an airborne radar at 10 kft altitude.01o respectively. 2 10 geometric depression geometric grazing 4/3 earth depression 4/3 earth grazing flat earth 1 angle .03o and 0. these differences are 0.km Figure 3. Now consider a sea-level target as seen from an airborne radar at 65 kft altitude. Figure 3 plots the depression angle and grazing angle out to the radar horizon. the 4/3 earth model’s depression angle differs from the flat earth model’s depression angle by about 1. the 4/3 earth model’s depression angle differs from the flat earth model’s depression angle by about 1.8o.65o.deg 10 0 10 altitude = 10 kft -1 10 0 10 1 2 10 10 range . We note that at the radar horizon. At 10 km.2o. Figure 4 plots the depression angle and grazing angle out to the radar horizon. We note that at the radar horizon. and differs from the geometric depression angle by only about 0.

2 10 geometric depression geometric grazing 4/3 earth depression 4/3 earth grazing flat earth 1 angle .deg 10 0 10 altitude = 65 kft -1 10 0 10 1 2 10 10 range .km Figure 5. Depression and grazing angles vs.deg 10 0 10 altitude = 25 kft -1 10 0 1 10 2 10 10 3 10 range .km Figure 4. range from 65 kft altitude. Depression and grazing angles vs.14 - 3 10 . 2 10 geometric depression geometric grazing 4/3 earth depression 4/3 earth grazing flat earth 1 angle . range from 25 kft altitude. .

back-of-the-envelope. approximation. While reasonable for low altitudes. including altitude. While this is useful. nature of refractivity is such that on the average it has a fairly linear height gradient to about 1 km above ground. We begin by noting that the index of refraction is often described in terms of Nunits.2 x 10-9 m-1. squinty-eyed. that is. (17) Smith and Weintraub5 present the relationship of refraction at any particular altitude as a function of atmospheric constituents and their respective partial pressure. We offer as general background references a paper by Bean. In their model. then decays exponentially beyond that. the refractivity depends on surface conditions. Altitude What we need first is a better appreciation for the effects of the atmosphere. where n 1 N 10 6 = index of refraction proper. this isn’t quite good enough for typical airborne radar altitudes.1 Refraction vs. a model for refractivity as a function of atmospheric parameters. it is sort of a ballpark. etc. We reasonably conclude “There has got to be a better way.3 More on Refractivity A common rule of thumb is that atmospheric refractivity is taken care of by k = 4/3. etc. Below an altitude of 9 km. time of day. which varies with region. and N = measure of refractivity in N-units. season. the refractivity is relatively surface-condition independent. not adequately taking into account atmospheric variations and corresponding altitude effects. Above 9 km.3 and a National Bureau of Standards Monograph by Bean and Dutton. Bean and Thayer6 offer a model of how refractivity changes with altitude. only sortof-ok. temperature.4 Much has been written in the literature about refraction in the atmosphere for microwave signals. It stems from the approximation that the refraction index of the atmosphere is linearly dependent on altitude h with a constant gradient of about 39.15 - 30 kft (18) .” 3. We write their segmented model’s dependence of refractivity on altitude as N h h N s s h hs 1000 m H N h N1 e h 9000 105 e 7023 hs h hs 1000 m hs 1000 m h 9000 m h 9000 m .

00732 e 0. Various publications by Bean. An average value for Ns for the continental US is given by Bean as 313. and with season and time of day.7 Furthermore. and 8000 hs .” Bean and Thayer’s segmented model is plotted for several surface refractivity values in Figure 6.where Ns = a measure of refractivity in N-units at the surface. Surface refractivity varies regionally.1 N-units. surface refractivity Ns varies from less than 250 in the mountain west during dry months to over 400 along the south Texas coast in the summer months. however. (22) They stipulate “This model of atmospheric refractivity is a close representation of the average refractivity structure within the first 3 km. optimal calculations for decay constants will vary somewhat regionally.3.00732 e 0. stipulating that any given atmospheric column might contain significant departures from this.8 Bean and Dutten.4 and Bean et al. H N1 ln 105 (20) Note that the model for height dependence depends pretty much on surface refractivity.9 show maps that even in the continental US.. and H = refractivity exponential decay constant in meters. (19) A minor point is that in this model. height h is with respect to mean sea level. including sharp gradients. that at 30 kft and . Bean and Thayer also propose a somewhat simpler model for refractivity versus height as N h N s e h hs He . Bean and Thayer offer that the refractivity decay constants can be calculated by N 0.” We note. and Ns ln N s 1000N N 0.005577 N s .8 N-units and that the standard deviation of [his] sample is 30.16 - . N1 = a measure of refractivity in N-units at 1000 m above the surface.005577 N s . We stress that this is an average model. N = refractivity linear decay constant in N-units per meter.3 Altshuler10 reports that his data shows that “the average global surface refractivity is 324. (21) where He 1000 .

and Nb 66. such as the ionosphere. The choice of this point will need to be cognizant of some limited altitude range of interest. Note that the new simpler model loses some accuracy at the lowest altitudes compared to the simpler Bean and Thayer model. and other fine-structure atmospheric phenomena. and Nb 102. a breakpoint is chosen above 9 km altitude to which the curves converge and pass through. and make no comments on the significance of errors at various altitudes.65 N-units. We postulate that a closer approximation over a larger range of altitudes can be found by giving up some accuracy at lower altitudes to gain accuracy at higher altitudes. Ns ln N b (24) In this model. Note that all of this also ignores ‘ducting’.17 - . in Figure 7. but gains especially above 6 kft or so. Furthermore. We propose to modify the simpler model somewhat. as well as the relative error between this new simpler model (designed for the altitude range 0-50 kft) and the earlier segmented Bean and Thayer model. we stipulate that other factors might at times drive adjustment of these parameters. (23) where Hb hb hs . (25) If we were interested in only a range of altitudes between 0 and 30 kft. we might choose hb 40 kft 12192 m . boundary layers. . space-based radars need to include other refraction sources. horizontal gradients. Furthermore.9 N-units. over an altitude range of 0 to 50 kft. For example. This point is chosen to limit the error between this model and the segmented Bean and Thayer model over some desired range of altitudes. then we might choose hb 30 kft 9144 m .for N s 400 this model differs from the earlier segmented model by 30 N-units. and offer this as N h N s e h hs Hb . we plot the relative error between the simpler Bean and Thayer and the earlier segmented Bean and Thayer model. Nevertheless. (26) We do not imply that these models are not useful outside of the ranges of interest used in selecting their parameters.

50 45 40 Ns = 250 (B&T simple) height .kft 35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 0 50 100 150 200 250 refractivity . Bean and Thayer’s segmented refractivity versus height model. .N-units 300 350 400 Figure 6.kft 35 Ns = 313 (B&T simple) 30 Ns = 400 (B&T simple) 25 Ns = 250 (new simple) Ns = 313 (new simple) 20 Ns = 400 (new simple) 15 10 5 0 -30 -20 -10 0 10 refractivity model difference .18 - . Relative error between simpler models and the segmented Bean and Thayer model.percent (%) 20 30 Figure 7.50 Ns = 250 45 Ns = 313 40 Ns = 400 height . for various surface refractivity values.

19 - . h hs h hs 6 6 10 N s 10 N s e H b cos e H b cos H b H b (29) We know that depends on altitude.3. however. (28) For the simplified exponential model this leads to the expression for the radius of curvature as h hs Hb 6 1 1 10 N s e . h h h h s s 6 6 10 N s cos g 10 N s cos d e Hb e Hb Hb Hb (30) Now. is some single average value for k. dn cos dh (27) where = instantaneous depression/grazing angle. the instantaneous value for k is calculated from the instantaneous value of as k 1 . Re 1 (31) What we really need. Consequently. Once we have this value for k.2 Effective Earth’s Radius Models The radius of curvature for the refraction of a ray is given by11 n . we can use the relationships between range. depression angle. and grazing . this expression can be reasonably simplified to either of the following approximations 1 1 . but we also know that it doesn’t vary too much around some nominal value from aircraft to target.

Near the surface. or some other geometric parameter based on them. will induce ever larger errors as the angles become more steep.20 - . we simply assume a negligibly small angle that allows substituting the cosine term with unity for the calculation of radius of curvature . This. for a value of Ns = 300. . we calculate k 4 . and not necessarily airborne radar systems. sin g a R 2kRe hs 2kRe hs sin d (32) We do note that these angle equations depend on k. The tolerance to these errors will have to be assessed. until convergence to a mutually satisfactory solution. we may iterate between calculating k and the angle. of course.1 The Constant 4/3 Earth Model At lower altitudes. or radar systems designed for airborne targets. it was developed for terrestrial essentially ground-to-ground transmission. 3. One option for the calculation of k is to assume that in the absence of any further information. Since we often will desire to calculate these angles.2. and R 2kRe ha 2kRe ha h hs 1 ha hs R . Alternately. the segmented Bean and Thayer model degenerates to merely a linear dependence of refractivity on altitude. for significant h and g .angle presented in earlier sections. the approximation k = 4/3 becomes less and less tenable. and non-nominal Ns. We specifically recall the calculation of depression and grazing angles from propagation path range. which in turn depends on radius of curvature . which in turn depends on the angles again. repeated here as ha hs 1 ha hs R . But even for this atmosphere. an acceptable solution for k may need to accommodate this. 3 (33) While this is an oft-quoted approximation.

2. 3. the instantaneous value for k is calculated as k 1 1 R 10 6 N s cos g Re 1 e 1 Hb e h hs Hb . and the N s = 313 in Figure 8. dh 10 6 N cos ha hs ha hs h s g s Hb ha (36) we can then use it to calculate k avg 1 R 1 e avg 1 ha hs 10 6 N s cos g Re Hb 1 ha hs Hb H b 1 e . but at least we have a dependence on aircraft height and surface atmospheric conditions.2. We still have the question “How good is it?” which we also defer. (34) Our first idea is to compute an average value for k.2 Estimation Method 1 Average k As stated. over the altitudes of propagation. . (35) This expression is certainly more complicated. as k avg ha hs 10 6 N s cos g Re Hb e ha Hb Hb 1 ln k dh 6 ha hs h 10 N s cos g Re ha hs s 1 Hb . (37) Here we have a similar dependence on aircraft height and surface atmospheric conditions.3 Estimation Method 2 Average Radius of Curvature If instead we first calculate the average radius of curvature as avg ha hs e H b 1 Hb 1 .21 - .3. These equations for kavg are plotted for hs 0 . The question remains “How good is it?” We defer the answer to this for the moment.

15 1.kft method 1 method 2 1 10 0 10 1. While these two methods give different results.3 Numerical Integration Solving for the exact bending vs.1 1.35 1.4 k avg Figure 8. range is pretty tough. We observe that there is a term that is due to the spherical earth.2 10 altitude . We still. both show that the refraction is less. the radius of ray curvature increases and bending decreases. reasonably ask “Is this any better than the 4/3 earth model?” and “By how much?” We also want to know “Is it worth it?” 3. This is good. resulting in less modification to the earth’s radius. for a spherically stratified atmosphere.2 1.22 - .25 1. as altitude increases. they nevertheless are very similar. and is typically handled by numerical integration.3 1. Clearly. .05 1. we may state Snell’s law for polar coordinates with the equation tan d 1 1 dn dh Re h n dh (38) where is the instantaneous elevation angle. Estimate of variation of kavg with aircraft altitude. even if the atmosphere is known. however. that is. Following the development in Bean and Dutton. and a term that is due to refraction itself. and h is the instantaneous altitude above nominal earth’s radius.

R h n dh e s hs (39) Completing the integration of the refractivity term may require numerical integration. and given radar and target heights. Once completed. . Clearly some of this is due to the curved earth. which is actually the range (line integral) along the curved propagation path. it relates neither one to the actual propagation path range. we have a relationship between cos d and cos g . which plots the difference in depression angle and grazing angle as a function of height for various reference atmospheres and grazing angles. This is done using the segmented Bean and Thayer model in Figure 9.By integrating both sides. h h a s R h e a 1 10 6 N e H b s (41) While this neatly relates depression angle to grazing angle as a function of altitude. this yields ha hs 6 1 10 N s e H b 1 dn . We remind ourselves that our aim is to calculate grazing angle and depression angle for a specified range. n dh dh ln 1 106 N s hs ha (40) These equations may be combined to yield the relationship cos d cos g 6 1 10 N s Re hs . we may arrive at the expression cos d ln cos g ha R h 1 dn e a ln dh . If we use the single exponential model for refractivity. is calculated from the instantaneous angles as ha 1 R sin hs ha 1 dh 2 hs 1 cos dh . Note that from the plot we see that the worst conditions are for the shallowest grazing angles. however.23 - (42) . We state here the results from Bean and Dutton4 that the “slant range”. and some due to refraction. especially for the most accurate models.

5 6 Figure 9. most precisely the instantaneous angle is related to the refractivity versus height and earth curvature as cos cos g e h 1 1 dn dh R h n dh hs e R hs cos g e Re h e h 1 dn dh hs n dh . where. and slant range. Curves are labeled with grazing angle in degrees. and therefrom calculate grazing angle and depression angle. (43) Of course we actually want to begin with radar height.100 90 80 0.3 60 50 40 30 Ns = 250 20 Ns = 313 10 0 Ns = 400 0 1 2 3 4 depression/grazing difference .kft 70 30 10 3 1 0. target height. Relationship of depression angle to grazing angle. the ground distance at the altitude of the target is calculated as ha R hs 1 d e R h tan hs e ha Re hs cos dh R h 1 cos 2 hs e .1 height .24 - dh .deg. as function of aircraft altitude for various grazing angles and atmospheres. Furthermore. (44) .

ha = radar altitude. and therewith calculate a range and depression angle. We in fact desire to begin with range and respective radar and target altitudes.1 Iterative Numerical Integration The above development allows us to begin with a grazing angle. (46) We also select some iteration parameters as g = grazing angle offset for derivative estimation.3. hs = target altitude. albeit with numerical integration techniques to achieve the greatest accuracy. and = convergence parameter.25 - . Step 2. and calculate corresponding ranges. that is N h = model of refractivity as a function of altitude. . and R = desired propagation path range. and then more numerical integration to calculate range along the curved ray path. One way to do this is to begin with the proper input altitudes.3 should work. We enter the calculations with input values for N s = surface refractivity. Even a constant in the range of 1. We present as example the following algorithm. and therefrom calculate the depression and grazing angles. (45) We also select a model for refractivity as a function of height. With such a set. We estimate an initial grazing angle as sinˆ g ha hs 1 ha hs R R 2kRe hs 2kRe hs (47) where k is estimated in some fashion. Step 1. perhaps from either method 1 or method 2.3. and guess at a set of grazing angles in the neighborhood of the final answer. we can then interpolate to the final answer. wherein we will use numerical integration to calculate a relationship between grazing angle and depression angle. Another way to converge arbitrarily close to the final answer is with iterative techniques.0 to 1.

2 hs 1 cos 0 ha 1 dh . We now update our estimate of the grazing angle as ˆ g ˆ g m .Step 3. Step 4. and g R0 R . (52) . We calculate the instantaneous ray angles as a function of altitude as cos 1 Gh cosˆ g g 2 . R2 2 hs 1 cos 2 ha (50) This group is the second numerical integration.26 - . we calculate the corresponding ranges as 1 R0 dh . and cos 2 G h cosˆ g g 2. (51) Step 5. (49) Furthermore. and R1 2 hs 1 cos 1 ha 1 dh . (48) This calculation is the first numerical integration. cos 0 G h cos ˆ g . This allows us to calculate the iteration parameters as m R2 R1 . Calculate the ratio of cosines as a function of altitude as R hs e G h e Re h h 1 dn dh hs n dh .

Step 3. and therewith a corresponding depression angle. Step 7. for the input ranges and altitudes/heights. If we have converged to a solution. then move forward to Step 7. A reasonable convergence criterion is that the range error is less than some acceptable limit.2 Iterative Numerical Integration with Approximations The previous algorithm using multiple numerical integrations can be modified somewhat by substituting a model for the refractivity profile that allows a closed form integration in the calculation of the ratio of cosines in step 3. (53) This ends the procedure. The final step is to calculate the depression angle at the radar as cosˆ d Gha cos ˆ g . 3.27 - (54) . Calculate the ratio of cosines as a function of altitude as Re hs 1 10 6 N s G h h hs Re h Hb 6 1 10 N s e . this allows the substitution of the following for step 3. Using a simple exponential model. At this point we should have converged to a grazing angle.Step 6. else return to Step 4.3. . With the new estimate for grazing angle we need to test for convergence. This calculation is an approximation to the first numerical integration.

Specifically. Method 1 average k – Bean and Thayer simple model This was discussed as method 1. for this case. Iterative numerical integration This technique will be our baseline or truth to which we compare the other techniques.3. we will use the simple single-exponential model for refractivity as a function of altitude. We recall the different models as follows. It merely assumes straight-line propagation over a spherical earth. we will use the simple model with a convergence point at 40 kft. and calculate an average value of k that corresponds to this. Method 1 average k This was discussed as method 1. It then iterates to find the grazing angle best suited to the input propagation path range. and calculates depression angle from the result. It uses the segmented model for refractivity versus height proposed by Bean and Thayer. Specifically. we will use the simple single-exponential model proposed by Bean and Thayer for refractivity as a function of altitude. for this case. Iterative numerical integration with approximation This is identical to the iterative numerical integration technique except that a simple single-exponential model is used for refractivity versus height.28 - . but with the convergence point at 40 kft. and calculate an average value of k that corresponds to this. Specifically. This is (nearly) the present model presumed by many radars for pointing the antenna.4 A Comparison of Models and Methods In this section we compare the several techniques discussed previously. Method 2 Average radius of curvature This was discussed as method 2. 4/3 earth model This is the common technique initially discussed whereby refraction is compensated by presuming a geometry where the earth’s radius is increased by a constant factor k = 4/3. It averages the refraction radius of curvature over altitude using the simple single-exponential model for refractivity as a . Geometric earth model This model presumes no refraction at all.

• The iterative numerical integration with approximation technique matched the presumed truth the best.15 .1 Figure 10. (No surprise there. Either one of these is usually better than the 4/3 earth model. lower altitudes.) Usually not far behind is the average radius of curvature model (method 2). • The 4/3 earth model is only better than assuming no refraction at all for steeper depression angles. 0.05 depression angle error . . as well as the availability of atmospheric model parameters.05 0 0. altitude.function of altitude. and more refractive atmospheric conditions.) geometric 4/3 Earth method 1 (B&T simple) method 1 (40 kft) method 2 (40 kft) 90 80 height . Clearly.kft 70 60 50 40 30 20 Ns = 250 (true) Ns = 250 (presumed) 10 0 R = 100 km -0. The next several figures show the error in computed depression angle for a variety of atmospheres and propagation path ranges.1 -0. Especially at the higher altitudes and shallower depression angles. • The average radius of curvature model (method 2) is generally better than the average k model (method 1). • Depression angle inaccuracies are worse for shallow grazing angles.29 - 0. Depression angle error vs. which model to use depends on the pointing accuracy desired for the antenna. but with the convergence point at 40 kft. the 4/3 earth model yields a worse depression angle estimate. Several points become obvious.deg. 100 numerical numerical (w/ approx. and then uses the average curvature to calculate an appropriate earth radius factor k.

Depression angle error vs.05 depression angle error . altitude.deg. . 0. 100 numerical numerical (w/ approx.05 0 0.1 -0. altitude.kft 70 60 50 40 30 20 Ns = 313 (true) Ns = 313 (presumed) 10 0 R = 100 km -0. 0.05 0 0.) geometric 4/3 Earth method 1 (B&T simple) method 1 (40 kft) method 2 (40 kft) 90 80 height .1 Figure 12.30 - 0.kft 70 60 50 40 30 20 Ns = 400 (true) Ns = 400 (presumed) 10 0 R = 100 km -0.05 depression angle error . Depression angle error vs.) geometric 4/3 Earth method 1 (B&T simple) method 1 (40 kft) method 2 (40 kft) 90 80 height .deg.1 -0.100 numerical numerical (w/ approx.1 0.15 .15 Figure 11.

06 Figure 13.02 depression angle error .kft 35 30 25 20 15 10 Ns = 400 (true) Ns = 400 (presumed) 5 0 -0. Depression angle error vs. 0.deg.kft 35 30 25 20 15 10 Ns = 250 (true) Ns = 250 (presumed) 5 0 -0.) geometric 4/3 Earth method 1 (B&T simple) method 1 (40 kft) method 2 (40 kft) 45 40 height . Depression angle error vs.50 numerical numerical (w/ approx.04 0.06 R = 30 km -0. altitude.02 0 0. altitude.deg.06 .31 - 0. 50 numerical numerical (w/ approx.04 Figure 14.04 -0. .) geometric 4/3 Earth method 1 (B&T simple) method 1 (40 kft) method 2 (40 kft) 45 40 height . 0.02 depression angle error .06 R = 30 km -0.04 -0.02 0 0.

We have done this up to now in this report. • Guessing a wrong reference atmosphere will generally (but not absolutely always) degrade those depression angle estimates that depend on atmospheric parameter inputs. the iterative numerical integration with approximation technique performed roughly comparable to the average radius of curvature technique (method 2). Duh. based perhaps on averages calculated from surface conditions. even if we guess wrong about atmospheric parameters.What if we don’t know the atmosphere. . we must rely on models. In other words. several comments come to mind. both of which generally performed better than the average k technique (method 1). how good is that?” The next several plots show the effect of guessing a wrong Ns. This leads to the question “Well. and the attendant average atmosphere. Based on these plots. the best techniques are generally the same techniques that are best whether we guess right or guess wrong (probably as long as our wrong guess is not too wrong). Furthermore. or we don’t know Ns? If we know the exact nature of the atmosphere for all altitudes.32 - . or the strictly geometric model. But now we ask “What if we don’t even know the surface conditions?” The reasonable answer might be to presume some average surface condition. say the Ns = 313 reference atmosphere. Since we don’t know the atmosphere that accurately. • Even the degraded models and methods that presume some nominal reference atmosphere will normally perform better over a larger parameter space than the 4/3 earth model. those techniques and methods that depend on atmospheric parameters will still generally perform better than those methods that do not. we could determine all angles and ranges with maximum accuracy and precision. • Among the models that presumed the nominal reference atmosphere.

deg.05 depression angle error .1 Figure 16.1 0. altitude. Depression angle error vs.) geometric 4/3 Earth method 1 (B&T simple) method 1 (40 kft) method 2 (40 kft) 90 80 height .kft 70 60 50 40 30 20 Ns = 250 (true) Ns = 313 (presumed) 10 0 R = 100 km -0.05 0 0.15 .kft 70 60 50 40 30 20 Ns = 400 (true) Ns = 313 (presumed) 10 0 R = 100 km -0. altitude. 0. Depression angle error vs. 100 numerical numerical (w/ approx.deg.100 numerical numerical (w/ approx. .15 Figure 15.33 - 0.1 -0.05 0 0.1 -0.) geometric 4/3 Earth method 1 (B&T simple) method 1 (40 kft) method 2 (40 kft) 90 80 height . 0.05 depression angle error .

altitude.02 0 0.) geometric 4/3 Earth method 1 (B&T simple) method 1 (40 kft) method 2 (40 kft) 45 40 height .02 0 0. Depression angle error vs. 0.) geometric 4/3 Earth method 1 (B&T simple) method 1 (40 kft) method 2 (40 kft) 45 40 height . .02 depression angle error .02 depression angle error .06 Figure 17.04 -0.06 R = 30 km -0. 0.deg. 50 numerical numerical (w/ approx.04 0.04 Figure 18.kft 35 30 25 20 15 10 Ns = 250 (true) Ns = 313 (presumed) 5 0 -0.06 R = 30 km -0.50 numerical numerical (w/ approx.06 . altitude.deg.34 - 0.kft 35 30 25 20 15 10 Ns = 400 (true) Ns = 313 (presumed) 5 0 -0.04 -0. Depression angle error vs.

and consequently won’t mention it anymore here. Getting this right may be the difference between collecting useable radar data. say. The 4/3 earth model should be used only at very low altitudes. This can be done at least two different ways. 3. by means of some sort of interferometric technique (e. if the elevation beamwidth is wide enough. Of course. on the pointing accuracy required. and the second is the grazing angle. and calculating the exact bending to be compensated or mitigated. although we will offer here that a radar range measurement is more affected by the ‘slowing’ of the velocity of propagation than by the ‘bending’ of the propagation path. In both cases. The depression angle is important to pointing the antenna. the next best calculation is the average radius of curvature technique (method 2). To do justice to this topic is beyond the scope of this report. Which angle to use when There are two angles to consider in the propagation path. we should use nominal values. as we have indicated. both to each other. we should use the best guess of the atmospheric parameters. the best choice is the iterative numerical integration technique. and to the geometric grazing angle. Measuring the required depression angle Picking the right depression angle to point an antenna means figuring out the proper direction of arrival of the reflected wavefronts. If a single formula is required. and no useable radar data at all. The second way is to actually measure the arrival direction of energy from the range of interest. of course. The first is the depression angle. As this report indicates.3. The first is acquiring a detailed atmospheric profile of the region of operation. We expect to address this in a future report.g. monopulse).35 - . the reference atmosphere. It seems reasonable that if computing time and horsepower exists.5 Recommendations So. . The idea is to lock the depression angle to the direction of the clutter return. In the absence of specific atmospheric parameters. the question becomes “Which model do we use when?” Everything depends. Many radars presume these to be equal. all this is moot.6 More Discussion Velocity of propagation The refractivity of the atmosphere also leads to range measurement errors due to the diminished velocity of propagation. both of these presumptions are in error to various extents.

but to different aspects of the radar. depend on the actual grazing angle. which attempts to stabilize the wavenumber projection onto the ground. also depends on actual grazing angle.The grazing angle is also important. • Proper motion compensation. as follows.36 - . Getting the grazing angle right is more of a data quality issue. • The mapping of slant-range resolution and distances to ground-range resolution and distances depends on the actual grazing angle. • Both clutter reflectivity. . as well as clutter RCS.

In addition. Estimates (or presumptions) of local atmospheric conditions (especially surface temperature. These are given in this report. and perhaps clutter reflectivity calculations. say. such as ducting. probably requires a more rigorous analysis that includes other factors such as the ionosphere. mainly because of shallower angles.37 - .4 Conclusions The following comments are offered. This amounts to presuming that k = 1. This was ignored in this report. Of the two. k = 4/3. • Long range radars especially should include the effects of earth curvature in calculating depression angle and grazing angle.0 instead of something larger. but maximum ranges. especially from space. and humidity) should at least be recorded in IFSAR auxiliary data. This hasn’t bothered many radar systems in the past because the pointing error tends to be a small fraction of the typical antenna elevation beamwidth. earth curvature usually has a greater effect than refraction. a number of current radar systems use the geometric grazing angle for all motion compensation tasks. • Accurately pointing a high-gain. pressure. narrow-beamwidth antenna. range scaling. • Earth curvature and atmospheric refraction impact not only antenna pointing. These two will be increasingly different at increasing ranges. • IFSAR absolute height accuracy probably needs to account for atmospheric refraction. etc. Errors because of this are picked up and compensated by autofocus. • Local atmospheric conditions can cause all sorts of weird anomalous propagation. • Better models and methods exist to compensate and mitigate the effects of refraction than the k = 4/3 earth radius model. • Although many radar systems account for earth curvature. . even at relatively short ranges. fewer accommodate atmospheric refraction.

but we don't all have the same horizon” -.“We all live under the same sky.38 - .Konrad Adenauer .

Doerry. B. 1966. August 1953. 1966. September 1999. Shaun Quegan. IEEE Transactions on Antennas and Propagation. Institute for Environmental Research. J. 4 B. Sonar & Navigation. 8 Bradford R. Thayer. 740-755. Bean. D. pp. Inc. Understanding Radar Systems. 5 Earnest K. A World Atlas Of Atmospheric Radio Refractivity.39 - . Issue 5. Issue 3. March 1962. “The Radio Refractive Index of Air”. “Depression and Grazing Angles with Earth Curvature and Refraction”. 7 Fred M. ISBN 0-07-057909-1. “The Constants in the Equation for Atmospheric Refractive Index at Radio Frequencies”. 1992.R. “Some Meteorological Effects on Scattered Radio Waves”. Bean. Inc..References 1 Armin W. 1980.R. R. No 5. Thayer. 5. R. 4. Stanley Weintraub.E. Bean. Jr. May 1959. ISBN 0-07-707426-2. E. Romero. 32-38. 9 B. 10 Edward E. US Department of Comemrce.E. pp. October 2007.. 45.. A. pp. No. Vol. IRE Transactions on Communications Systems. Vol.. 1. Armin W. 46. Bean. Doerry. A. Sandia Internal Memorandum. Vol. Dutton. Bean. SAND99-2241. Altshuler. Proceedings of the I.. Dickey. 329–339. National Bureau of Standards. Proceedings of the I. McGraw-Hill. “Degrading effects of the lower atmosphere on long range airborne SAR imaging”. pp. pp. McGraw-Hill. National Bureau of Standards Monograph 92. Issue 1.. 4 . Vol. 2 Merrill I. March 1956. 643-649. “Models of the Atmospheric Radio Refractive Index”. Vol.second edition. 1035-1037. Radio Meteorology. Skolnik. R. “Tropospheric Range-Error Corrections for the Global Positioning System”. . pp. 11 Simon Kingsley. Samson. Environmental Science Services Administration Monograph 1. 260-273. 6 B. C. G. D. Smith. Louis A. Central Radio Propagation Laboratory. Introduction to Radar Systems . 3 Bradford R. Issue 8. Proceedings of the I.E. May 1998. March 1. Vol. G. 50. IET Proceedings on Radar. Cahoon.R.

Hudgens 5240 1 1 1 MS 0519 MS 0519 MS 0519 J. J. W. Klein 5349 5349 5349 1 MS 0899 Technical Library 9536 (electronic copy) .40 - .Distribution Unlimited Release 1 MS 0532 J. A.-) . Doerry L. Ruffner A.

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