Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » College Station, Texas » Southern Plains Agricultural Research Center » Insect Control and Cotton Disease Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #265974

Title: Partly cloudy with a chance of migration: Weather, radars, and aeroecology

Author
item CHILSON, PHILLIP - University Of Oklahoma
item FRICK, WINIFRED - University Of California
item KELLY, JEFFREY - University Of Oklahoma
item HOWARD, KENNETH - National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
item DIEHL, ROBERT - Us Geological Survey (USGS)
item LARKIN, RONALD - Illinois Natural History Survey
item Westbrook, John
item KELLY, T - Detect, Inc
item KUNZ, THOMAS - Boston University

Submitted to: Bulletin of the American Meterological Society
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/31/2011
Publication Date: 5/21/2012
Citation: Chilson, P.B., Frick, W.F., Kelly, J.F., Howard, K.W., Diehl, R.H., Larkin, R.P., Westbrook, J.K., Kelly, T.A., Kunz, T.H. 2012. Partly cloudy with a chance of migration: Weather, radars, and aeroecology. Bulletin of the American Meterological Society. 96:669-686.

Interpretive Summary: Airborne pest dispersal may lead to widespread outbreaks of infestations and infections of crops, livestock and humans. New methods such as radar are needed to detect and track the flight of pests and of animals that transmit disease. Although radar systems are primarily used to monitor weather conditions and track the location and movements of aircraft, radar echoes regularly contain signals from birds, bats, and insects. The potential of using radar to track and monitor flying animals became apparent to researchers soon after its initial development. Today, hundreds of radar installations are located around the world and it has become easier to access and process these vast data sets. Additionally, radar systems are becoming increasingly sophisticated with the advent of innovative signal processing and detection capabilities. We examine several potential benefits of radar observations for meteorological and biological research over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales and animal species. This approach is timely given the importance of using this technology for understanding factors that affect airborne movements of animals relative to areawide pest management, climatic variability, and land use changes.

Technical Abstract: Aeroecology is an emerging scientific discipline that integrates atmospheric science, terrestrial science, geography, ecology, computer science, computational biology, and engineering to further the understanding of ecological patterns and processes. The unifying concept underlying this new transdisciplinary field of study is a focus on the planetary boundary layer and lower free atmosphere (i.e., the aerosphere), and the diversity of airborne organisms that inhabit and depend upon this aerial environment for their existence. Here we focus on the role of radars and radar networks in aeroecological studies. Radar systems are primarily used to monitor weather conditions and track the location and movements of aircraft. However, radar echoes regularly contain signals from other sources, such as birds, bats, and insects. The potential of using radar to track and monitor volant animals became apparent to researchers soon after its initial development. Today, hundreds of radar installations are located around the world and it has become easier to access and process the vast data sets resulting from these instruments. Additionally, radar systems are becoming increasingly sophisticated with the advent of innovative signal processing and dual-polarimetric capabilities. We examine some of the many potential benefits coming from radar aeroecology for meteorological and biological research over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales as well as species. This approach is also timely given the importance of using this technology for understanding factors that affect movements of animals in the aerosphere relative to regional and global climate change.