Characterizing inertial and convective optical turbulence by detrended fluctuation analysis

Gustavo Funes, Eduardo Figueroa, Damían Gulich, Luciano Zunino, Darío G. Pérez

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

5 Scopus citations


Atmospheric turbulence is usually simulated at the laboratory by generating convective free flows with hot surfaces, or heaters. It is tacitly assumed that propagation experiments in this environment are comparable to those usually found outdoors. Nevertheless, it is unclear under which conditions the analogy between convective and isotropic turbulence is valid; that is, obeying Kolmogorov isotropic models. For instance, near-ground-level turbulence often is driven by shear ratchets deviating from established inertial models. In this case, a value for the structure constant can be obtained but it would be unable to distinguish between both classes of turbulence. We have performed a conceptually simple experiment of laser beam propagation through two types of artificial turbulence: isotropic turbulence generated by a turbulator [Proc. SPIE 8535, 853508 (2012)], and convective turbulence by controlling the temperature of electric heaters. In both cases, a thin laser beam propagates across the turbulent path, and its wandering is registered by a position sensor detector. The strength of the optical turbulence, in terms of the structure constant, is obtained from the wandering variance. It is expressed as a function of the temperature difference between cold and hot sources in each setup. We compare the time series behaviour for each turbulence with increasing turbulence strength by estimating the Hurst exponent, H, through detrended fluctuation analysis (DFA). Refractive index fluctuations are inherently fractal; this characteristic is reflected in their spectra power-law dependence-in the inertial range. This fractal behaviour is inherited by time series of optical quantities, such as the wandering, by the occurrence of long-range correlations. By analyzing the wandering time series with this technique, we are able to correlate the turbulence strength to the value of the Hurt exponent. Ultimately, we characterize both types of turbulence.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 25 Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes
EventProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering -
Duration: 1 Jan 2019 → …


ConferenceProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
Period1/01/19 → …


  • angle-of-arrival
  • beam wandering
  • Hurst exponent
  • multifractal detrended fluctuation analysis
  • non-Kolmogorov turbulence

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