2002-2003 Science Planning Summary

Aeronomy & Astrophysics

Dr. Vladimir Papitashvili
Program Manager


NSF/OPP 01-38126
Station: McMurdo Station
RPSC POC: Jesse Alcorta
Research Site(s): Arrival Heights

The operation of an ELF/VLF radiometer at Arrival Heights
Dr. Antony C. Fraser-Smith
Stanford University
STAR Laboratory

Deploying Team Members: Dana Porrat
Research Objectives: Since it was discovered in the 1930s that natural phenomena emit the lowest frequency of electromagnetic energy -- radio waves -- the field of radio astronomy has joined the scientific effort to analyze both atmospheric and extraterrestrial signals. Arrival Heights near McMurdo Station is one of a network of eight radiometers operated by Stanford University for the Office of Naval Research. Because of its isolation from cities, which produce interference that propagates over considerable distance, Arrival Heights is almost unique as a measurement location for natural noise. The radiometers at McMurdo operate in both the extra-low- and very-low-frequency (ELF/VLF) ranges, monitoring radio noise from natural sources such as thunderstorms.

We have about two decades -- a remarkably long period -- of data measuring ELF/VLF radio signals and noise at Arrival Heights. These data enable scientists to look for weak effects, for example, those that might be associated with global warming, with some confidence. Since thunderstorms generate telltale ELF/VLF radio signals, analysis of these data can provide information on the weather and other global changes.

Field Season Overview:
One team member will travel to McMurdo Station to upgrade the equipment and operation of the radiometer. The primary task is to convert the data recording media from analog and digital magnetic tape to DVD disk media. The upgrade requires installation of a new computer. This represents a major change in the equipment and operation of the radiometer and is expected to take about two weeks.