Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Peter Brown


During their passage through the atmosphere meteoroids produce a hypersonic shock which may be recorded at the ground in the form of infrasound. The first objective of this project was to use global infrasound measurements to estimate the influx of large (meter/decameter) objects to Earth and investigate which parameters of their ablation and disruption can be determined using infrasound records. A second objective was to evaluate and extend existing cylindrical line source blast theory for meteoroids by combining new observations with earlier analytical models, and validate these against centimetre-sized optical meteor observations.

The annual terrestrial influx of large meteoroids (kinetic energies above a threshold E) was found to be N=4.5E–0.6 where E is expressed in kilotons of TNT equivalent. This indicates that estimates of the influx derived from telescopic surveys of small asteroids near Earth are too low. Infrasound records from an event over Indonesia in 2009 were used to develop a technique to estimate the altitude of meteoroid terminal bursts and their energies. The burst altitude in this case was determined to be near 20 kilometers and the energy between 8 – 67 kilotons of TNT equivalent.

Using a network of optical cameras and an Infrasound Array in southern Ontario, Canada, 71 centimetre-sized meteoroids were optically detected and associated with infrasonic signals recorded at the ground. The shock source height and its uncertainty along the meteor trail from raytracing was determined including wind effects due to gravity waves perturbations, which were found to be significant for such short range (km) infrasound propagation. Approximately 75% of signals were attributed to cylindrical line source geometry, while ray deviation angles greater than 117° were associated with spherical shocks. The ReVelle (1974) meteor infrasound model was found to be accurate when using infrasound period measurements, but systematically under-predicted blast radii when amplitude is used. The latter can be better modelled assuming the wave distortion distance is “<6%, as opposed to the 10% adopted by ReVelle. Infrasonic masses found from ReVelle’s theory deviate from photometric estimates largely due to meteoroid fragmentation.