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Detection of low frequency hurricane emissions using a ring laser interferometer
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View: Figures


Image of FIG. 1.

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FIG. 1.

In an active ring laser interferometer, the plasma tube is inside the cavity. When the cavity is rotating, it takes longer for one beam to travel around the cavity than the other beam. The time difference equates to a frequency difference between the two counter-propagating beams. As a consequence, when small amounts of light transmitted through the dielectric mirrors are collimated and combined on a photodiode, a beat frequency proportional to the rotation rate of the cavity is observed.

Image of FIG. 2.

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FIG. 2.

A Helmholtz acoustic resonator was used to create infrasound signals at 12.5 Hz. When the acoustic resonator was placed in the same room as the ring laser, the 12.5 Hz acoustic signals frequency modulated the beat frequency of ∼574.5 Hz introduced by Earth's rotation. An FFT of the modulated signals shows the side bands at 12.5 Hz on either side of the beat frequency. The noise around the beat frequency at the center of the graph is thought to be due to machine room vibrations and students in the building.

Image of FIG. 3.

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FIG. 3.

A Helmholtz generator, emitting a 10.9 Hz signal frequency, modulates the carrier frequency (the beat frequency) introduced by earth's rotation in a square ring laser 5.6 m on a side. Two separate demodulation schemes were simultaneously employed. Graph 3(a) shows an FFT of the output of a phase locked loop FM demodulator. In graph 3(b), an FFT of the frequency counted data is shown. Aside from some low amplitude noise, only the 10.9 Hz sidebands appear. An examination of the figure shows the two approaches give equivalent results.

Image of FIG. 4.

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FIG. 4.

In late August of 2005, as Hurricane Katrina approached the coast of Louisiana, ground vibrations (microseisms) produced by waves crashing on the shore were detected by a large ring laser interferometer located in Conway, Arkansas. The frequencies of the microseisms that were detected by the ring laser are in general agreement with those detected by a 150 station seismic array in Southern California.15 Graph 4(a) was from microseisms on August 28, 2005 and graph 4b was from microseisms on August 29, 2005 as the storm was moving ashore.

Image of FIG. 5.

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FIG. 5.

A pronounced ∼7.3 mHz emission was detected from Hurricane Katrina as the eye came ashore on August 29, 2005. Similar responses of ∼7.2 mHz were detected by the ring laser interferometer for Hurricanes Dean, Wilma, and Rita as they moved over a land mass. The ∼7.2 mHz signals appeared only when the hurricanes were over land or shallow water.

Image of FIG. 6.

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FIG. 6.

On August 17, 2007, Hurricane Dean passed between the islands of Martinique and St. Lucia in the Caribbean. A microwave image of the eye between the islands from the Metro-France radar on Martinique is shown in image 6(a).18 As shown in image 6(b), approximately 3.5 to 4.0 h later a distinct infrasound response of ∼7.2 mHz was recorded by the large ring interferometer in Central Arkansas. The time delays suggest the 7.2 mHz response was transmitted from the Caribbean as an acoustic rather than seismic signal.

Image of FIG. 7.

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FIG. 7.

The figure shows a ∼12.5 mHz response from Hurricane Wilma as it was transitioning from a tropical depression into a tropical storm south of Jamaica on October 16, 2005.

Image of FIG. 8.

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FIG. 8.

The enhanced satellite image 8(a) of Hurricane Wilma was taken on October 21, 2005.21 It shows a distinct double eyewall prior to Hurricane Wilma making landfall on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Also, on October 21, 2005, the ring laser detected two closely spaced infrasound responses as shown in graph 8b. The inner eyewall generated a frequency of ∼8.5 mHz and the outer eyewall generated a frequency of ∼8.1 mHz.

Image of FIG. 9.

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FIG. 9.

A distinct ∼7.2 mHz response, graph 9(a), was recorded by the ring laser as Hurricane Wilma was about to exit the Yucatan Peninsula into the Gulf of Mexico on October 22, 2005. The corresponding satellite image 9(b) was also taken on October 22, 2005. The satellite image shows that the eye of Hurricane Wilma was on the northeastern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula. (NASA Aqua spacecraft, MODIS, http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/gallery//?2005295/wilma).

Image of FIG. 10.

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FIG. 10.

On October 26, 2005, a response of ∼11.5 mHz was detected as Wilma became extratropical off Nova Scotia. Typically, infrasound frequencies higher than 10 mHz are detected before a distinct eye is formed and after the hurricane becomes extratropical. Apparently, some of the strong frequency peaks below 6.0 mHz are associated with explosive volcanic activity.

Image of FIG. 11.

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FIG. 11.

The figure was created by Zurn and Widmer,22 using the vertical responses from 42 seismic sites, during the eruption on July 15, 1991, of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippine Islands. Typhoon Yunya came ashore during the climatic stages of the eruption. The appearance of the response at ∼7.3 mHz coincided with Typhoon Yunya moving ashore on the Island of Luzon.

Image of FIG. 12.

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FIG. 12.

For a little over 5 h Hurricane Katrina produced a 7.3 mHz emission after making its second landfall in Louisiana on August 29, 2005. As shown in Figure 12, the ring laser response is broken into ten blocks of 32 mins each. The amplitude of each block is arbitrary. However, the amplitudes increased for the first 3 h and then began to decrease. An examination of the figure shows the 7.3 mHz emissions varied very little over the five hour period. Since the wind speed of Katrina was rapidly decreasing, the 7.3 mHz frequency appears to be nearly immune to wind speed changes.


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Over the last decade, large horizontally mounted ring laserinterferometers have demonstrated the capacity to measure numerous geophysical effects. In this paper, responses from large ring laserinterferometers to low frequency hurricane emissions are presented. Hurricanes create a broad spectrum of noise that extends into the millihertz range. In addition to microseisms, hurricanes with established eyewalls were found to create distinct frequency peaks close to 7 mHz as they came ashore or moved over shallow water. Selected emissions from Hurricanes Katrina, Wilma, and Dean are presented. The exact coupling mechanism between the ∼7 mHz hurricane emissions and the ring lasers remains under active investigation.


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Scitation: Detection of low frequency hurricane emissions using a ring laser interferometer