PROPAGATION OF SONIC BOOMS THROUGH A REAL, STRATIFIED ATMOSPHERE
Cleveland, Robin Olav
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Sonic boom propagation in a quiet) stratified) lossy atmosphere is the subject of this dissertation. Two questions are considered in detail: (1) Does waveform freezing occur? (2) Are sonic booms shocks in steady state? Both assumptions have been invoked in the past to predict sonic boom waveforms at the ground. A very general form of the Burgers equation is derived and used as the model for the problem. The derivation begins with the basic conservation equations. The effects of nonlinearity) attenuation and dispersion due to multiple relaxations) viscosity) and heat conduction) geometrical spreading) and stratification of the medium are included. When the absorption and dispersion terms are neglected) an analytical solution is available. The analytical solution is used to answer the first question. Geometrical spreading and stratification of the medium are found to slow down the nonlinear distortion of finite-amplitude waves. In certain cases the distortion reaches an absolute limit) a phenomenon called waveform freezing. Judging by the maturity of the distortion mechanism, sonic booms generated by aircraft at 18 km altitude are not frozen when they reach the ground. On the other hand, judging by the approach of the waveform to its asymptotic shape, N waves generated by aircraft at 18 km altitude are frozen when they reach the ground. To answer the second question we solve the full Burgers equation and for this purpose develop a new computer code, THOR. The code is based on an algorithm by Lee and Hamilton (J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 97, 906-917, 1995) and has the novel feature that all its calculations are done in the time domain, including absorption and dispersion. Results from the code compare very well with analytical solutions. In a NASA exercise to compare sonic boom computer programs, THOR gave results that agree well with those of other participants and ran faster. We show that sonic booms are not steady state waves because they travel through a varying medium, suffer spreading, and fail to approximate step shocks closely enough. Although developed to predict sonic boom propagation, THOR can solve other problems for which the extended Burgers equation is a good propagation model.