Volume and boundary acoustic backscatter envelope fluctuations are characterized from data collected by the Toroidal Volume Search Sonar (TVSS), a 68 kHz cylindrical array capable of 360° multibeam imaging in the vertical plane perpendicular to its axis. The data are processed to form acoustic backscatter images of the seafloor, sea surface, and horizontal and vertical planes in the volume, which are used to attribute nonhomogeneous spatial distributions of zooplankton, fish, bubbles and bubble clouds, and multiple boundary interactions to the observed backscatter amplitude statistics. Three component Rayleigh mixture probability distribution functions (PDFs) provided the best fit to the empirical distribution functions of seafloor acoustic backscatter. Sea surface and near-surface volume acoustic backscatter PDFsare better described by Rayleigh mixture or log-normal distributions, with the high density portion of the distributions arising from boundary reverberation, and the tails arising from nonhomogeneously distributed scatterers such as bubbles, fish, and zooplankton. PDF fits to the volume and near-surface acoustic backscatter data are poor compared to PDF fits to the boundary backscatter, suggesting that these data may be better described by mixture distributions with component densities from different parametric families. For active sonar target detection, the results demonstrate that threshold detectors which assume Rayleigh distributed envelope fluctuations will experience significantly higher false alarm rates in shallow water environments which are influenced by near-surface microbubbles, aggregations of zooplankton and fish, and boundary reverberation.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

Publication Date


Journal or Conference Title

Journal of the Acoustical Society of America


114, Issue 2



Publisher Place

Melville, NY, USA


Acoustical Society of America

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Document Type

Journal Article