Snodar (Surface layer NOn-Doppler Acoustic Radar), is designed to measure the height and intensity of the atmospheric boundary layer on the Antarctic plateau. The nature of the atmospheric boundary layer above the Antarctic plateau is of interest both to atmospheric scientists and to astronomers wishing to plan future optical telescopes. Snodar works by sending an intense acoustic pulse into the atmosphere and listening for backscatter off inhomogeneities resulting from temperature gradients and wind shear. The theory of operation is very similar to that of the well known underwater sounding techniques of SONAR.

Snodar at Dome F Snodar at Dome F, January 2011. A webcamera at upper right allows us to see the condition of the Snodar dish. The aluminium sound cone is elevated above the ice to allow snow to blow underneath (credit: Hirofumi Okita)

Snodar is a monostatic acoustic radar with a minimum sampling height of 5m, a range of at least 200m, and a vertical resolution of 1m. Snodar operates at frequencies between 4kHz and 15kHz. Such high frequencies propagate relatively well in the low temperature of the Antarctic atmosphere.

The two original instruments have been operating at Dome A since 2008. PLATO-F supports a new Snodar, constructed in late 2010, and became operational in January 2011.

Snodar uses a single horn-loaded compression driver as both transmitter and receiver, and an off-axis parabolic dish to collimate the acoustic beam. The signal is acquired using a USB sound card. A PC/104 computer performs the signal processing in real time. Snodar runs autonomously, storing raw data on USB flash disks for retrieval the following summer, while uploading processed data via the Iridium satellite network. The Iridium communication also allows Snodar to be remotely controlled.

Snodar dish Snodar 1 prototype dish and compression driver (credit: Colin Bonner)

Snodar is protected from background noise by a heavily damped enclosure. The inside of the enclosure is lined with material that absorbs nearly all the sound frequencies that can interfere with Snodar's operation.

Snodar Colin Bonner with the Snodar 1 enclosure (credit: Michael Ashley)

Refereed papers from Snodar

  1. C. S. Bonner, M.C.B. Ashley, X. Cui, L. Feng, X. Gong, J.S. Lawrence, D.M. Luong-Van, Z. Shang, J.W.V. Storey, L. Wang, H. Yan, J. Yang, X. Zhou and Z. Zhu, Thickness of the Atmospheric Boundary Layer Above Dome A, Antarctica, during 2009, Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 122, (2010), 1122–1131.
  2. Yang, H., Allen, G., Ashley, M.C.B., Bonner, C.S., Bradley, S., Cui, X., Everett, J.R., Feng, L., Gong, X., Hengst, S., Hu, J., Jiang, Z., Kulesa, C.A., Lawrence, J.S., Li, Y., Luong-Van, D., McCaughrean, M.J., Moore, A.M., Pennypacker, C., Qin, W., Riddle, R., Shang, Z., Storey, J.W.V., Sun, B., Suntzeff, N., Tothill, N.F.H., Travouillon, T., Walker, C.K., Wang, L., Yan, J., Yang, J., York, D., Yuan, X., Zhang, X., Zhang, Z., Zhou, X., and Zhu, Z., The PLATO Dome A Site-Testing Observatory: Instrumentation and First Results, Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 121, (2009), 174–184.
  3. C.S. Bonner, M.C.B. Ashley, J.S. Lawrence, D.M. Luong-Van, J.W.V. Storey, Snodar: An acoustic radar for atmospheric turbulence profiling with 1m resolution, Acoustics Australia, 37, No. 2, (2009), 47–51.

SPIE instrumentation papers from Snodar

  1. Colin S. Bonner, Michael C. B. Ashley, Stuart G. Bradley, Xiangqun Cui, LongLong Feng, Xuefei Gong, Jon S. Lawrence, Daniel M. Luong-Van, Zhaohui Shang, John W. V. Storey, Lifan Wang, Huigen Yang, Ji Yang, Xu Zhou, and Zhenxi Zhu, Snodar: 2009 performance at Dome A, Antarctica, Proc. SPIE, in press.
  2. C.S. Bonner, M.C.B. Ashley, J.S. Lawrence, J.W.V. Storey, D.M. Luong-Van and S.G. Bradley, Snodar: a new instrument to measure the height of the atmospheric boundary layer on the Antarctic plateau, Proc. SPIE, 7014, (2008), 70146I– 70146I-7.

Conference proceedings from Snodar

  1. J.S. Lawrence, M.C.B. Ashley, C.S. Bonner, S. Bradley, D. Luong-Van, J.W.V. Storey, Characterisation of The Dome C atmospheric boundary layer turbulence with a non-Doppler acoustic radar, (Eds N. Epchtein and M. Candidi), EAS Publications Series, 25, (2007), 31–34.
  2. C.S. Bonner, M.C.B. Ashley, J.S. Lawrence, D.M. Luong-Van, and J.W.V. Storey, Snodar II: Probing the atmospheric boundary layer on the Antarctic Plateau, Conference Proceedings of the Imperial College Press World Scientific in press, (2008) , Sardegna, Italy, September, 2008.


Primary designer and constructor: Colin Bonner
Principal Investigator: Professor Michael Ashley

Participating institutions in alphabetical order

UNSW University of New South Wales, Australia