Analysis of acoustic dot echo signature over an Antarctic ice shelf: the possible remote sensing of Antarctic petrels

Data from a monostatic acoustic radar operating at British Antarctic Survey's Halley station on a coastal Antarctic ice shelf show a band of small target echoes at an altitude of 700-1000 m during spring 1991. Statistical analysis of the echo signature show that the targets are spread more evenly in the horizontal than would be expected for a random signature, whilst the local distribution in the vertical is Gaussian. Similar echo signatures have been observed previously, and are attributed to birds, bats or insects: the Antarctic data are also consistent with bird targets, but the case is not proven. No birds have been observed directly, but at 700 in they would be barely visible to the naked eye. The nearest nesting area with suitably large numbers of birds (Antarctic petrels, Thalassoica antarctica) is a few hundred kilometres away. Estimates of velocity and target density imply that the Halley site would need to be specially favoured by the colony for their acoustic signature to be observed in such numbers, but such might be the case due to the presence of perennial coastal open water to the west of the station.


Publication status:
Authors: Anderson, P.S.

1 January, 2002
Antarctic Science / 14