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In order to reduce fluctuations, remote sensing devices such as radars and radiometers typically sample many times before forming an estimate. When mean values are stationary during this sampling period, the fluctuations in the amplitudes and intensities obey the same probability density functions (pdf) as those for each sample contributing to the estimate. However, it is shown in this work that when mean values change from sample to sample (i.e., pulse to pulse for most radars), the pdf's of the amplitudes and intensities differ from those corresponding to the samples. Such changes can be inherent to the scatterers as, for example, the scatter of microwaves from an ocean surface, or they can be induced by factors such as antenna motion across gradients.

With respect to meteorological radars, it is routinely argued that the central limit theorem leads inexorably to zero-mean Gaussian distributions of the two components of the electric field phasor backscattered from precipitation because of the large number of independent scatterers in the sampling volume. Consequently, the net amplitudes and intensities obey Rayleigh and exponential probability density distributions, respectively. While apparently true for each pulse (sample) even when the reflectivity across the beam is not uniform, the authors show that, in general, the underlying statistics of the amplitudes and intensities are no longer Rayleigh nor exponential. This occurs because the number of scatterers and intensities change from sample to sample as, for example, when a radar beam moves while the mean intensity is changing. Consequently, non-Rayleigh statistics and deviations from Gaussian distributions are probably much more common than previously appreciated.

A statistical model is developed and confirmed from detailed Monte Carlo drop simulators of a radar sampling as the beam moves through a cloud. Theory and these model simulations show that the resultant pdf's of the amplitude and intensity are mixtures of the pdf's from each sample contributing to the estimate. This mixture of pdf's also produces increased variance. Because of the general nature of these findings, it is likely that the effects of sampling through changing conditions (namely, biases and increased variances) probably also apply to many other types of remote sensing instruments including those using square-law detectors.

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Copyright 1996 American Meteorological Society. Publisher’s version of record:<1846:NRSSCB>2.0.CO;2

Publication Title

Journal of Applied Meteorology


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