The University of Southampton
University of Southampton Institutional Repository

Measuring underwater ambient noise: problems and pitfalls

Harland, E.J., (2008) Measuring underwater ambient noise: problems and pitfalls Compton, R., Dible, S., Guymer, T.H.E., Lepper, P., Richards, S. and Robinson, S. (eds.) At Institute of Acoustics Underwater Noise 2008 Conference: Underwater Noise Measurement, Impact and Mitigation, United Kingdom. 14 - 15 Oct 2008. , pp. 90-97.

Record type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


Ambient noise is a key factor in determining the performance of underwater acoustic systems. Ambient noise is that sound received by an omni-directional sensor which is not from the sensor itself or the manner in which it is mounted. Noise from the sensor or its mounting is termed self-noise. Ambient noise is made up of contributions from many sources, both natural and anthropogenic. These sounds combine to give the continuum of noise against which all acoustic receivers have to detect the signals they are looking for.

Ambient noise is deceptively easy to measure, just deploy a hydrophone, make a recording, transform into the frequency domain, and you then have the level and spectral characteristics of ambient noise. Unfortunately this is rarely adequate to fully characterise ambient noise and further difficulties may be introduced by the way the hydrophone is deployed.

Ambient noise is made up of a number of contributions, each of which can vary in a random and/or cyclic manner. The cyclic variation may have a period corresponding to the tidal, diurnal, weekly, lunar, monthly or annual cycles. For any one application it is important to match the measurement time to the relevant cyclic variations. It is also important to consider how the raw acoustic data can be processed to reduce the information to manageable levels while still retaining the important factors.

Noise radiated from a discrete source is called radiated noise and is measured in a similar manner to ambient noise. Measurements are usually made close to the noise source so that the radiated noise is sufficiently stronger than the ambient noise to ensure that it is the radiated noise being measured. Radiated noise can be highly directional so it is important to make a series of measurements around the source.

If the characteristics of the individual contributions to ambient noise, including radiated noise from individual sources, are understood then it is possible to model the ambient noise field. For many applications this can considerably reduce the need for detailed, and expensive, field measurements.

Making the ambient noise measurements can be hampered by poor measurement procedure. Care must be exercised to minimise the self-noise of the measurement equipment and the platform from which it is deployed. It is also important to consider the depth of the measurement sensor and any directional characteristics of both the sensor and the noise field.

This paper will review how ambient noise can be measured, the length of time for which the measurements need to be made, and the equipment that should be used to collect the data. It will also consider how the data should be processed to obtain meaningful, but manageable, information.

Full text not available from this repository.

More information

Published date: October 2008
Venue - Dates: Institute of Acoustics Underwater Noise 2008 Conference: Underwater Noise Measurement, Impact and Mitigation, United Kingdom, 2008-10-14 - 2008-10-15


Local EPrints ID: 65368
PURE UUID: af4f92cf-1dc3-42ae-9ecf-cae58edea7da

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 02 Mar 2009
Last modified: 19 Jul 2017 00:34

Export record


Author: E.J. Harland
Editor: R. Compton
Editor: S. Dible
Editor: T.H.E. Guymer
Editor: P. Lepper
Editor: S. Richards
Editor: S. Robinson

University divisions

Download statistics

Downloads from ePrints over the past year. Other digital versions may also be available to download e.g. from the publisher's website.

View more statistics

Atom RSS 1.0 RSS 2.0

Contact ePrints Soton:

ePrints Soton supports OAI 2.0 with a base URL of

This repository has been built using EPrints software, developed at the University of Southampton, but available to everyone to use.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.