SODAR (Sonic Detection and Ranging), also known as a sonic anemometer/thermometer or acoustic radar, is a meteorological instrument used to measure wind speed and direction at various levels above the ground. SODAR systems work by emitting sound waves upward and then measuring the reflection of these sound waves off temperature variations and turbulence in the atmosphere. By analyzing the Doppler shift and the time it takes for the sound wave to return, it’s possible to determine wind speed and direction at different altitudes.

Key Features and Details of SODAR:

Working Principle: SODAR uses the Doppler effect. It emits sound pulses into the atmosphere. When these pulses hit air layers with different temperatures or moving air particles, they are scattered back and detected by the SODAR system. The speed and direction of the wind are determined based on the change in frequency of the returned signal.

Altitude Range: SODAR can measure wind profiles from near the ground up to several hundred meters or even more, depending on the system’s strength and the atmospheric conditions.

Portable: Many SODAR systems are portable and can be set up in various locations, making them versatile for field studies.

Limitations: Sound waves used by SODAR can be affected by various factors, including other noise sources, which can limit the quality or accuracy of the measurements. The effective range of SODAR can also be reduced in conditions of high atmospheric stability or during heavy rainfall.


  • Wind Energy: Used to measure wind profiles to assess potential sites for wind turbines.
  • Air Quality Monitoring: Used to understand the vertical distribution of air pollutants.
  • Weather Research: Useful in studying atmospheric boundary layer phenomena.

Comparison with LIDAR: LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) operates on a similar principle but uses laser light instead of sound waves. While LIDAR can provide higher resolution and can measure over longer ranges, it’s usually more expensive and can be affected by atmospheric particles like dust or water droplets. SODAR, on the other hand, is typically less affected by atmospheric particles but can be influenced by ambient noise and has a shorter effective range than LIDAR.

In summary, SODAR is an essential tool in meteorology and atmospheric research, allowing scientists and professionals to obtain vertical profiles of wind speed and direction. Its ability to quickly and effectively measure wind profiles makes it crucial in various applications, from wind energy site assessment to atmospheric research.