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Multiple-scattering in radar systems: A review

Battaglia, A., S. Tanelli, S. Kobayashi, D. Zrnic, R. J. Hogan, and C. Simmer (2010), Multiple-scattering in radar systems: A review, J. Quant. Spectrosc. Radiat. Transfer, 111, 917-947, doi:10.1016/j.jqsrt.2009.11.024.

Although extensively studied within the lidar community, the multiple scattering phenomenon has always been considered a rare curiosity by radar meteorologists. Up to few years ago its appearance has only been associated with two- or three-bodyscattering features (e.g. hail flares and mirror images) involving highly reflective surfaces.

Recent atmospheric research aimed at better understanding of the water cycle and the role played by clouds and precipitation in affecting the Earth’s climate has driven the deployment of high frequency radars in space. Examples are the TRMM 13.5 GHz, the CloudSat 94 GHz, the upcoming EarthCARE 94 GHz, and the GPM dual 13–35 GHz radars. These systems are able to detect the vertical distribution of hydrometeors and thus provide crucial feedbacks for radiation and climate studies. The shift towards higher frequencies increases the sensitivity to hydrometeors, improves the spatial resolution and reduces the size and weight of the radar systems. On the other hand, higher frequency radars are affected by stronger extinction, especially in the presence of large precipitating particles (e.g. raindrops or hail particles), which may eventually drive the signal below the minimum detection threshold. In such circumstances the interpretation of the radar equation via the single scattering approximation may be problematic. Errors will be large when the radiation emitted from the radar after interacting more than once with the medium still contributes substantially to the received power. This is the case if the transport mean-free-path becomes comparable with the instrument footprint (determined by the antenna beam-width and the platform altitude).

This situation resembles to what has already been experienced in lidar observations, but with a predominance of wide- versus small-angle scattering events. At millimeter wavelengths, hydrometeors diffuse radiation rather isotropically compared to the visible or near infrared region where scattering is predominantly in the forward direction. A complete understanding of radiation transport modeling and data analysis methods under wide-angle multiple scattering conditions is mandatory for a correct interpretation of echoes observed by space-borne millimeter radars.

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