Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Engineering Science


Geology and Geological Engineering

First Advisor

Adnan Aydin

Second Advisor

Terry Panhorst

Third Advisor

Louis G. Zachos

Relational Format



Understanding and specification of the higher altitudes of the atmosphere with global coverage over all local times is hampered by the challenges of obtaining direct measurements in the upper atmosphere. Methods to measure the properties of the atmosphere above the stratopause is an active area of scientific research. In this thesis, we revisit the use of infrasound as a passive remote sensing technique for the upper atmosphere. Signals from the Tungurahua volcano in Ecuador are used to investigate the behavior of the upper atmosphere. Depending on the atmospheric conditions, stratospheric, mesospheric and thermospheric arrivals are observed during intervals of explosive volcanic activity. It is found that the travel times and dominant frequencies of the thermospheric arrivals exhibit a coherent variability with periods equal to those of the tidal harmonics. Theoretical predictions using atmospheric specifications show that the stratospheric arrivals are predicted within 1% of the observed value. For thermospheric arrivals, this error can be as high as 10%. The error in thermospheric celerities is found to be in accord with the typical uncertainty in upper atmospheric winds. Given the observed response of the infrasound celerities to upper atmospheric tidal variability, it is suggested that infrasound observations may be used as an additional source of information to constrain the atmospheric specifications in the upper atmosphere. We present corrected wind profiles that have been obtained by minimizing misfits in traveltime and source location using a Bayesian statistics grid search algorithm. Also, a Levenberg-Marquardt search algorithm is developed. Additionally, a new numerical method has been developed to solve the problem of infrasound propagation in a stratified medium with (high Mach number) background flow, based on a modal expansion. The underlying mathematics is by no means new and has been earlier described. This solution goes beyond the effective sound speed approximation, which is typically used in infrasound propagation modeling for computational efficiency reasons. Using the wide-angle high Mach number modal solution, it is shown that traveltimes and shadow zones are under predicted using the effective sound speed approximation, with increasing grazing angle and Mach number.



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