Meteor Generated Infrasound: Theory and Observation

  • Wayne N. EdwardsEmail author


There are many impulsive sources that produce infrasound in the atmosphere that can be detected by ground-based microbarometers, but few match the range of potential source energies and altitudes of meteor-generated infrasound. Ranging from the scale of centimeters to 100s of meters in dimension, hypervelocity meteoroids impacting the earth’s atmosphere can range widely in energy from 10−5 to >104 kt (Kilotons) of TNT, producing infrasound that may be observed either locally or globally. In this review, the history and development of meteor-generated infrasound research is explored with focus on how observations of meteor infrasound are progressing our understanding of the interaction of meteoroids with the upper atmosphere and the physics of meteors in general. The theoretical development of cylindrical line source blast wave theory for meteors propagating in an inhomogeneous, stratified atmosphere is reviewed and shown how this approximation to a meteor’s hypersonic ballistic shock relates to both regional and global observations of meteor infrasound, with examples that both fit and challenge our current understanding. Today, modern sensor suites and technology, both ground- and space-based, are providing a plethora of new constraints and secondary data that are helping unravel the source regions, generating methods and physics of meteor infrasound, while detections of infrasound from meteors/fireballs/bolides are being observed at an unprecedented rate by both the CTBT/International Monitoring System (IMS) global network and regional research groups. Some of the newest findings are reviewed and discussed.


Meteor generated infrasound Hypervelocity meteoroids 



The author extends his appreciation to David McCormack and the personnel at Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) for their assistance in obtaining and collecting data. Thanks also to Peter Brown and Douglas ReVelle for both their assistance and encouragement in pursuing meteor infrasound over the course of the past 5 years. To the meteor physics research groups at the University of Western Ontario, Canada, the Ondrejov Observatory, Czech Republic, and the Spanish Meteor Network for their past and continued cooperation at identifying and characterizing meteor infrasound. Thanks also to the British Atmospheric Data Center (BADC) for access to weather and upper atmospheric data and the Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS) program for financial assistance.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Physics and AstronomyUniversity of Western Ontatio, London, Ontario LondonOntarioCanada

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