Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

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

March 1, 2017

Aeroecology is an emerging scientific discipline that integrates atmospheric science, Earth science, geography, ecology, computer science, computational biology, and engineering to further the understanding of biological 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 on the aerosphere for their existence. Here, we focus on the role of radars and radar networks in aeroecological studies. Radar systems scanning the atmosphere 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 airborne birds, bats, and arthropods. We briefly discuss how radar observations can be and have been used to study a variety of airborne organisms and examine some of the many potential benefits likely to arise from radar aeroecology for meteorological and biological research over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. Radar systems are becoming increasingly sophisticated with the advent of innovative signal processing and dual-polarimetric capabilities. These capabilities should be better harnessed to promote both meteorological and aeroecological research and to explore the interface between these two broad disciplines. We strongly encourage close collaboration among meteorologists, radar scientists, biologists, and others toward developing radar products that will contribute to a better understanding of airborne fauna.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2012
Title Partly cloudy with a chance of migration: Weather, radars, and aeroecology
DOI 10.1175/BAMS-D-11-00099.1
Authors Phillip B. Chilson, Winifred F. Frick, Jeffrey F. Kelly, Kenneth W. Howard, Ronald P. Larkin, Robert H. Diehl, John K. Westbrook, T. Adam Kelly, Thomas H. Kunz
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society
Index ID 70184182
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center