National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2001

Surface measurements of precipitation from an ocean mooring: The underwater acoustic log from the South China Sea

Nystuen, J.A., M.J. McPhaden, and H.P. Freitag

J. Appl. Meteorol., 39(12), 2182–2197, doi: 10.1175/1520-0450(2001)040<2182:SMOPFA>2 (2000)

Surface measurements of precipitation in oceanic environments have proven especially difficult to obtain because traditional technologies such as tipping-bucket rain gauges are unsuitable for deployment from oceanic platforms such as ships and moorings. Recently, the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has modified a collection gauge, the R. M. Young Company rain gauge, for long-term deployment on deep ocean moorings. This instrumentation package was deployed during part of the South China Sea Monsoon Experiment. Also deployed on the same mooring were two acoustic rain gauges (ARGs) that monitor precipitation through the interpretation of the high-frequency, from 500 to 50 000 Hz, underwater sound field. The mooring was located at 20°22.2′N, 116°31.2′E and was in place from 7 April-5 June 1998. Unfortunately, pirates stole the surface instrumentation on 6 May 1998, limiting data from the R. M. Young rain gauge to satellite transmissions prior to the attack. The ARGs survived the attack and reported data throughout the deployment. The acoustic data are interpreted to provide quantification of wind speed; detection, classification, and quantification of rainfall; and the detection and quantification of near-surface bubble layers. Percentage-of-time-raining data from the two rainfall measurements are in excellent agreement. Based on comparison with the R. M. Young rain gauge data, modified acoustic rainfall algorithms are proposed. The acoustic detection of several instances of high near-surface bubble injections during extremely heavy rainfall is described.

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