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R&D N 35/2005

Terje Tjelta, Lars Erling Bråten and Tor Ove Breivik

Predicting the Attenuation


Distribution on Line-of-Sight Radio
Links Due to Melting Snow
Predicting the Attenuation Distribution on Line-of-Sight...

R&D Scientific N 35/2005


Doc.
Title Predicting the Attenuation Distribution on Line-of-
Sight Radio Links Due to Melting Snow

ISBN
ISSN 0809-1021
Project No TFRN36
Program Access Networks
Security Gr. OPEN
No. of pages
Date 2006.01.19

Author(s)
Terje Tjelta, Lars Erling Bråten and Tor Ove Breivik

Subject headings
Attenuation due to melting snow and sleet

Abstract
There are a large number of radio links working under climate conditions where melting
snow should be taken into account, as well as other propagation effects. This is, in
particular, important since it is established that melting ice and snow particles attenuate
electromagnetic waves more than water particles with the same amount of liquid water.
This paper reviews some basics of propagation through sleet. It summarises the recently
proposed Bacon and Eden prediction method, applies it, and compare with measurements.
Experimental data provide evidence for critical parts of the prediction method and full
monthly distributions compares well with the predicted ones in the shallow regions likely
caused by melting snow.
The Norwegian Defence Logistic Organisation, Telenor Nordic Fixed and Norkring are
jointly financing the project.

Telenor R&D N 35/2005


Predicting the Attenuation Distribution on Line-of-Sight...

© Telenor ASA 2005.11.23

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or utilized in any form or
by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any
information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Contents

1 Introduction ......................................................................................2

2. Line-of-sight radio links in regions with wet snowfall...............3

3. Melting layer attenuation ...............................................................4

4. Basics of the combined rain and wet snow attenuation


prediction method............................................................................6
4.1. Zero degree isotherm and rain height ................................................................ 6
4.2. Distribution of the zero degree isotherm height ................................................ 6

5. Experimental evidence....................................................................8
5.1. Observations in Japan and Canada .................................................................... 8

6. Conclusions .....................................................................................12

8. References ......................................................................................13

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1 Introduction
It has been known for over 50 years, that melting ice or snow particles attenuate
electromagnetic waves more than water particles with the same amount of liquid water.
Also the first attempts to estimate the excess attenuation compared to what droplets with
the same amount of water causes are old. It is now well established that sleet, or melting
snow, can cause attenuation several times more than that caused by rain of the same rainfall
rate intensity.
Correct dimensioning of radio systems is important from the point of view of providing
satisfactory service and making best possible use of the frequency spectrum. Rather than
using an arbitrary additional margin to account for sleet attenuation it is of great interest to
make use of an accurate prediction method. This also minimise the misuse of spectrum
improving the overall economy of radio systems. This has been an un-solved problem for
many years.
However, recently a method has been proposed to predict the attenuation distribution due to
both rain and sleet on any line-of-sight radio link. There are several reasons for the
slowness of developing a prediction method for wet snow compared to predicting the
attenuation due to rain only. The problem is complicated both from a theoretical as well as
practical measurements points of view. Several theoretical results give confidence in the
estimated extinction coefficients for sleet particles, but there is a great variability due to the
particle shape and the mixture of liquid water with snow and ice. The measurements are
difficult because it is important to only estimate the effect of sleet in the atmosphere and
not antenna wetting or wet snow effects on the antenna radomes.
Until recently, there have not been available global maps describing meteorological
features to help describing the amount of wet snow in the total rainfall at any point of the
surface of the Earth. However, recently Bacon and Eden suggested a method that makes use
of global maps and indirect information to make an estimate of the amount of sleet and an
average attenuation profile to obtain excess attenuation in the melting layer. It further
assumes a certain distribution of the height of rainfall, or zero-degree isotherm, as well as a
fixed shape of the melting layer excess attenuation as a function of the position in the layer.
With this information it is possible to predict the attenuation distribution on any link taking
both rain and sleet into considerations.
This report reviews some basics of propagation through sleet and is based on [1]. It
summarises the Bacon and Eden prediction method and applies it and compare with
observed results published. In particular data from Japan obtained in the fifties to seventies
have been found very interesting, in addition to data from Canada. These data provide
attenuation and precipitation during sleet events. There have been a number of reports from
several parts of the world indicating excess attenuation due to the melting layer. Analysis of
new data from recent measurements in Norway is compared with the predictions. In spite of
limited amount of measured data available, the proposed prediction method is promising. A
detailed description of the measurement set-up is given in [2].

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2. Line-of-sight radio links in regions with wet


snowfall
Radio links are extensively used in all parts of the world, also in regions with a significant
amount of frozen precipitation. These links are designed to operate satisfactory according to
local climate conditions. Wet snow, or sleet, is a condition difficult to account for, since
there has been no available prediction method. However, recently, Bacon and Eden
proposed a prediction method generally applicable everywhere [3].
Heavy radiowave attenuation in the melting layer, consisting largely of wet snow, may be
significant for radio links in climate regions such as coastal Norway. This may be a
problem for telecommunication operators guaranteeing reliable service with short outage
times independent of weather. Rain attenuation can generally be ignored for frequencies
below 5 - 10 GHz. The importance of rain attenuation with respect to propagation
impairment increases rapidly with frequency. Even for lower frequencies wet snow can
cause significant attenuation events compared to pure rain due to the larger size of the sleet
particles compared to raindrops. Dry snow, which is a mixture of ice and air, is known to
cause insignificant attenuation on radio links.
The current ITU-R recommended method for predicting attenuation caused by
hydrometeors does not take into account sleet precipitation. The link attenuation is
calculated based on the annual rain rate statistics. One of the challenges when performing
experimental work on sleet attenuation is to characterise the form of precipitation.
Avoidance of sleet accumulating on the surface of the antennas is important to avoid
another source of anomalous propagation degradation, when the propagation impairments
of the transmission medium are of interest.
Prediction of melting layer attenuation should take into account the link geometry relative
to the melting layer. If the link is elevated, contributions from different particle types with
varying degree of relative water content, such as rain and sleet, must be accounted for. This
is slightly different from estimating rain attenuation, where an effective path length is used
to account for both the path length through the rain and the inhomogeneous rain intensity.

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3. Melting layer attenuation


The melting layer consists of a mixture of ice, water and air. Falling ice hydrometeors melt,
coalesce and then separate into raindrops. Hydrometeor precipitation in the form of sleet
may occur along the propagation path when the air temperature is around 0 °C. The theory
of attenuation in rain is well understood and reasonable well modelled for the frequency
range in practical use today. Theoretical extinction coefficients have been established for
various particle sizes and forms, and simplified specific attenuation models established
depending on radio wave frequency and polarisation, and the path angle with respect to the
major axis of large non-spherical raindrops. In contrast the sleet particles causes significant
more difficulties for modelling, but certain attempts have been done. Theoretical analyses
of radio wave propagation through the melting layer use models of the melting ice particles.
It has been found that the sleet particles have larger extinction coefficients than raindrops
with the same amount of liquid water, causing excess specific attenuation compared to rain.
See for example, Jain and Watson [4], or Kuznetsov et al [5] for a recent analysis. The
radar terminology used is bright band, due to the observed strong radar echoes from this
layer. In addition to co-polar attenuation, the anisotropic nature of the wet snow particles
may also result in some depolarisation.
In the model used in this paper, the simplified approach provided by Bacon and Eden is
followed. A multiplication factor is introduced to describe whether the specific attenuation
is different from rain. The factor is 1 for rain and higher than 1 for sleet with a maximum of
3.5 or so, and 0 in dry snow or ice. This model is shown graphically in Figure 1 where the
multiplication factor is given as function of the vertical position into the meting layer from
the rain height.

-200
Relat ive height (m) to the ra in height

-400

-600

-800

-1000

-1200
0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 4
Melting layer mult iplication factor

Figure 1 Multiplication factor to estimate additional attenuation in the meting layer


compared to rainfall

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Figure 2 Zero-degree isotherm

The proposed multiplication factor is given by g(h), Equation (1)

⎧0 , 0<h
⎪⎪
( )
g h =⎨ (
a 1 − eh / b )
2

h≤0 (1)
( )( ( )
,
⎪⎩ ⎜⎝
)
⎪ ⎛1 + 1 − e − ( h / c ) 2 2 a 1 − e h / b 2 − 1 ⎞

where the constants a = 4 ,b = 70, and c = 600. As a crude indication the three coefficients
have an impact on the maximum multiplication factor, its position relative to the top and
the depth of the layer, respectively. The function goes asymptotic to 1 for large negative h
values, in practical term it is 1 for h < -1400 with a, b, and c as indicated.
The actual multiplication factor to use in prediction is made up as an integral of the
multiplicative factors weighted with the relative melting layer height probability density
function along the path. The multiplication factor is made relative to the 0-degree isotherm
height. The isotherm will vary over the year and this is as well found from an ITU-R
recommendation, if more accurate local data are not available. See the next section for
details.

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4. Basics of the combined rain and wet snow


attenuation prediction method
The combined rain, snow, and sleet prediction method is simple and uses the following
assumptions:
• The precipitation rate is known, for example from the ITU-R map in
Recommendation ITU-R P.837 [6]
• The precipitation is classified into rain, sleet and dry snow or ice using the rain
height, such as read from the map found in Recommendation ITU-R P.839 [7], and
a meting layer model as described below
• The precipitation attenuation distributions follows that of Recommendation ITU-R
P.530 [8], i.e., only dependent on the rate at 0.01% of the time as is the effective
path length model
The key of the method is to establish a multiplication factor taking into account the
contribution of sleet and dry snow. If all the precipitation is observed as rain this factor
will be 1 and there will no change to what current procedure (in Rec. ITU-R P.530) gives.
However, if all precipitation is observed as dry snow or ice the factor would be 0 and no
attenuation estimated. This is obviously very different to the existing method. The realistic
case is, since the zero-degree height varies over the year, that most will be rain, some sleet
and some dry snow. In sleet the attenuation may be significantly worse that for rain. When
making the summation of all possibilities the likely factor is larger than 1 and some
additional margin has to be allowed for wet snow.

4.1. Zero degree isotherm and rain height

Two features have to be established and used in the procedure: the mean rain height derived
from the zero degree isotherm height, and its variation or distribution. The rain height data
are given in Recommendation ITU-R P.839. The data are found from the website
(http://www.itu.int/ITU-R/software/study-groups/rsg3/databanks/troposph/rec839). The
zero degree height data are shown in Figure 2.

4.2. Distribution of the zero degree isotherm height

A rain height distribution is suggested used, if not available from local data there is one
included in Rec. ITU-R P.452 [9] dealing with interference. The cumulative probability
function is provided in a tabulated form. The probability density function derived from the
tabulated cumulative probability function, has been slightly smoothed, but it is noted that
further smoothing would be reasonable. Also note that the tails have been forced towards
zero as the lower tail, at negative heights, actually increases in the end. The probability
density function is plotted in Figure 3 along with a normally distributed rain height
proposed recently. The latter allows easier adjustments for modelling purposes and is the
first step to derive a latitude-dependent rain height variability.

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0.08
ITU-R Rec P.452
0.07 Proposal 2005

0.06

Probability 0.05

0.04

0.03

0.02

0.01

0
-2500 -2000 -1500 -1000 -500 0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500
Height (m) relat ive to the mean ra in height

Figure 3 Rain height probability density

For inclined paths it may not be correct to use one single multiplication factor for the whole
path. An average over the path may be more appropriate. Possible alternative multiplication
factors are shown in Figure 4, the averaged factor and the difference to the single one (as 0
degree gives). Note that the maximum becomes less, but the difference plot indicates that it
will average out. Some situation will now have excess attenuation since the paths in part
goes through the melting layer. It is straight forward to introduce the alternative factors and
use them for inclined paths, but the simple result shown here indicates that not much
difference can be expected.

500 500
Height (m) relative to the top of melting layer

Height (m) relative to the top of melting layer

0 0

-500 -500

0 deg. 0 deg.
1 deg. 1 deg.
2 deg. 2 deg.
-1000 -1000
3 deg. 3 deg.
4 deg. 4 deg.
5 deg. 5 deg.

-1500 -1500
0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 4 -1.5 -1 -0.5 0 0.5 1 1.5 2
Multiplication factor Difference in multiplication factor

Figure 4 Averaged multiplication factor taking path inclination into account

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5. Experimental evidence
Evidence of the effects of melting particles in sleet has been known since more than 50
years [10]. Atlas et al [11] and Gunn and East [12] review thinking that water covered
particles would behave like large particles as it was water, hence explaining the
significantly larger attenuation under such conditions compared what particles consisting of
the same amount of liquid water would result in.
The problems wet snow may create for microwave links have been known for many years,
and also techniques to minimise the negative effects. In a report from 1958, edited by
Asami, the propagation mechanisms as well as basic information on frozen precipitation,
are described along with experimental results [13]. In 1966 Takada and Nakamura
published significantly more attenuation over a 14.3 km link operating at 11 GHz [14].
Averaged over the whole path the attenuation for periods with sleet seemed to be 6 times
heavier compared to a case with the same precipitation rate of liquid water. The are several
potential reasons for excess attenuation: the wet snow along the path, attenuation in wet
snow accumulating on the antenna radomes (or on non-protected antenna structures), non-
hydrofobic radomes, and distortion of the antenna diagram due to the accumulated snow. A
lot has been done to avoid the latter sources of problems, whilst the wet snow in the
atmosphere cannot be removed and has to be accounted for.
Recently operators in the UK claim to have experienced higher than expected outage times
for links in the 23 GHz and 38 GHz band. An experiment performed in the Southern UK
verified that sleet/hail/snow may lead to significant time periods of link degradation [15].
The observed events had durations exceeding those predicted for rain attenuation durations.
Additional outage on microwave links, probably caused by sleet precipitation, has also been
observed in Scotland [16].
The melting layer is also known to produce excess attenuation for satellite-Earth links
[17][18][19]. There are a number of other observations with clear indications that the
attenuation due to the melting layer is significant. Some details are provided in the nest two
sections using results from Canada, Japan, and Norway.

5.1. Observations in Japan and Canada

Among several Japanese studies the two experiments in [14] and [20] have measured
attenuation on several radio links. Figure 5a shows excess attenuation due to sleet observed
during three winter months in 1962 using a 14.3 km vertical polarised link at 11 GHz. It
should be noted that the attenuation due to sleet is about 5 times larger for than for rain with
the same precipitation rate.
Observations from British Columbia in Canada [21] indicate considerable higher
attenuation from melting layer than from rain only. Data taken in 1982 from a 41.3 km link
at the frequencies 4 GHz and 7 GHz show values of up to 40 times more attenuation than
what rain would give, with values typically ranging between 10 and 20. The rainfall rate for
these events varied as is indicated in Figure 5b.

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5 40
Rain
4.5
Snow 35
4 Mixed
30
3.5

Excess attenuation ratio


25
Attenuation (dB )

2.5 20

2
15
1.5
10
1

5
0.5

0 0
0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 4 4.5 5 0 2 4 6 8 10 12
A verage precipitation over the path (mm/km) over 6 min A verage rain rate (mm/h)

a) b)
Figure 5 Observed excess attenuation due to the melting layer from a) Japan [14] and
b) Canada [21]

The Canadian results are discussed further in [22] where not only observation and
modelling of excess attenuation are covered, but also the phenomenon of abrupt changes in
signal strength with changes in the meting layer itself.

5.2. Data from the link Grande-Kopparen in Norway


Measurements are taken from a link between Grande (Ørlandet Radio) and Kopparen, about
50 km Southwest of Trondheim in Norway. The altitude of Grande is about 10 m above sea
with antenna 15 m above ground. Kopparen is 483 m above sea with antenna 12 m above
ground. The geographical coordinates are 63.82 °N, 9.73 °E. It is a vertical polarised 18.7
GHz link of path length 15.6 km with a difference in height of about 470 m. A map of the
coastal area and a terrain profile are given in Figure 6. See [2] for further details on the
experiment.

m m
500 500 500

250 250 250

10 0 10
km Grande K-factor
k-factor
1.33
1.33 Kopparen km
(Ørlandet radio) Forest Urban Fie ld Mountain/Ice Water

Figure 6 Coastal area with experimental link indicated and terrain profile
This region of Norway has a typical costal climate. The winters are mild with only limited
amount of snow, the summers typically have day temperatures between 15 and 20 degrees
and varying weather conditions. The antennas are monitored, and still-pictures recorded
every second minute, see Figure 7.

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a) Grande b) Kopparen

Figure 7 Antenna monitoring

Measured monthly distributions are given for nine months, Figure 8, from February through
mid October 2005. Note that data became available form the 17 February, at mid-day.

Figure 8 Observed attenuation distributions

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1: propos a l 2002, 2: propos a l 2005, 3: propos a l 2005 inlc ina tion a dde d
0
10

Ra in + we t s now (1)
Ra in + we t s now (2)

P e rc e ba tge of tim e a bs c c a is not e xc e e de d


Ra in + we t s now (3)
Ra in only
-1
10

-2
10

-3
10
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50
Ate nua tion (dB) (s olid line : Ye a r, broke n line : W ors t m onth)

Figure 9 Predicted attenuation distributions due to precipitation

The results in Figure 8 shows that no heavy rain effects have yet been observed, except for
February. In the range up to 10 dB there is more observed attenuation than predicted with
the current ITU-R method, see Figure 9. Although it is limited evidence it seems that a
combined rain and sleet method works better. The three methods given in Figure 9 are (1)
the method from 2002 [3], (2) is the one listed in Annex 1, and (3) is a modification to (2)
using the method illustrated in Figure 4. Note that the path inclination has minimal effect in
this case. In the prediction of rain attenuation version 3 of Rec. P.837 was used. The revised
method in [6] will only show very small, if any, difference at 18 GHz.

Year: 2005 M onth: 02 Year: 2005 M onth: 04


Temperatu re (deg C), precipitation (mm ), and snow depth (cm)

Temperature (deg C), precipitation (mm ), and snow depth (cm)

15 15
Snow depth Snow depth
Precipitation Precipitation
10 Tempe rature Temperature

10
5

0
5

-5

-10 0
0 5 10 15 20 25 0 5 10 15 20 25 30
Day Day

Figure 10 Meteorological data for February and April 2005

The meteorological data plotted in Figure 10 gives three measures: the temperature, the
amount of precipitation over a period of 6 hours and the snow depth on the ground. It is
noted that likelihood for sleet is quite high for several of the events in February and also in
April. Similar picture are seen for March and May, but not June.

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6. Conclusions
Precipitation in the form of sleet may cause significant anomalous attenuation for fixed
terrestrial links operating in climate regions such as coastal Norway. This may be a problem
for telecommunication operators guaranteeing reliable service with short outage times
independent of weather.
The recent proposed prediction method for melting layer attenuation on any link in the
works has been presented. Measurement data from various regions of the world confirms
critical parts of the prediction method and observed monthly distributions from a link in
coastal Norway provide evidence that the prediction method can be used.
The results have been submitted to the ITU-R Study Group 3 meeting in Cleveland 2005
and are currently included in the Chairman’s report, see Annex 1 for further details. The
next ITU-R meeting will consider adopting the method in ITU-R Recommendation P.530.
The work is part of a collaborative effort supported by the Norwegian Defence Logistic
Organisation, Telenor Nordic Fixed and Norkring are jointly financing the project.

Acknowledgements
The authors thank the Norwegian Meteorological Institute for providing meteorological
data.

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8. References
[1] Tjelta, T., Bråten L. E., Bacon D., “Predicting the attenuation distribution on line-of-
sight radio links due to melting snow,” In Proc. ClimDiff, Cleveland, U.S.A., 26-27
Sept. 2005
[2] Bråten, L.E., T. Tjelta, and D. Larsen, "Excess attenuation caused by sleet on coastal
terrestrial radio links in Norway", Telenor R&D Scientific Document R&D N
66/2003, 2003.
[3] ITU-R, "Development towards a model for combined rain and sleet attenuation", ITU-
R Document 3M/62E, International Telecommunication Union, Geneva, 2002.
[4] Jain, Y.M. and P.A Watson, "Attenuation in meting snow on microwave- and
millimetre-wave terrestrial radio links", Electronic letters, 21(2), 17 January 1985.
[5] Kuznetsov, G.G., C.J. Walden, and A.R. Holt, "Attenuation of microwaves in sleet",
Final Report to the Radiocommunications Agency AY 3564, Dep. of mathematics,
University of Essex, Colchester, Aug. 2000.
(Available from http://www.ofcom.org.uk/)
[6] ITU-R Recommendation P.837-4, "Characteristics of precipitation for propagation
modelling", International Telecommunication Union, Geneva, 2003.
[7] ITU-R Recommendation P.839-3, "Rain height model for prediction models",
International Telecommunication Union, Geneva, 2001.
[8] ITU-R Recommendation P.530-11, "Propagation data and prediction methods required
for the design of terrestrial line-of-sight systems," International Telecommunication
Union, Geneva, 2005.
[9] ITU-R Recommendation P.452-12, "Prediction procedure for the evaluation of
microwave interference between stations on the surface of the Earth at frequencies
above about 0.7 GHz", International Telecommunication Union, Geneva, 2005.
[10] Kerker, M., P. Langleben, and K.L.S. Gunn, "Scattering of microwaves by a meting,
spherical ice particle", Journal of Atmospheric Sciences, 8(6), pp. 424-424, 1951.
[11] Atlas, D., M. Kerker, and W. Hitschfeld, "Scattering and attenuation buy non-
spherical atmospheric particles", Journal fo Atmospheric and Terrestrial Physics, 3,
pp. 108-119, 1953.
[12] Gunn, K.L.S., and T.W.R East, "The microwave properties of precipitation particles",
Quarterly Journal Meteorological Society, London, 80, pp. 522-545, 1954.
[13] Asami, Y. (editor), "Microwave propagation in snowy districts", Monograph Series of
the Research Institute of Applied Electricity, No. 6, Sapporo, Japan, p. 198, 1958.
[14] Takada, M. and S. Nakamura, "Attenuation of 11 Gc Waves by Wet Snowfall",
Review of the Electrical Communication Laboratory, 14(1-2), pp. 27-42, January
1966.
[15] Thurai, M. and J.M. Woodroffe, "Precipitation induced co and cross-polar effects
from a 9 km link operating at 38 GHz", in Proc. of International Conference on
Antennas and Propagation (ICAP), Conf. Publ. No. 436, 2, pp. 222-225, 14-17 April
1997.
[16] Walden, C.J., C.L. Wilson, J.W.F. Goddard, K.S. Paulson, M.J. Willis, and J.D.
Eastment, "A study of the effects of meting snow on communications links in

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Scotland", Proc. of International Conference on Antennas and Propagation (ICAP),


2003.
[17] Dissanayake, A.W. and N.J. McEwan, "Radar and attenuation properties of rain and
bright band", Proc. of International Conference on Antennas and Propagation (ICAP),
pp. 125-129, 1978.
[18] Hendry, A., Y.M.M. Antar, J.J. Schlesak, and R.L. Olsen, "Melting layer attenuation
at 28.6 GHz from simultaneous Comstar beacon and polarisation diversity data",
Electronic letters, 17(5), pp. 190-191, 5 march 1981.
[19] Gutteberg, O., "Low elevation propagation in high-latitude regions", Telenor R&D
Report no 7/83, April 1983.
[20] Nishitsuji, A, "Method of calculation of radio-wave attenuation in snowfall",
Electronics and communications in Japan, 54-B(1), 1971.
[21] Kharadly, M, N. Owen, J. Van der Star, D. Michelson, and T. Enegren, "Observations
of abnormal microwave propagation phenomena during melting layer conditions", in
Proc. of International Conference on Antennas and Propagation (ICAP), Norwich UK,
12-15 April 1983
[22] Kharadly, M.M.Z. and N. Owen, "Microwave propagation through the melting layer at
grazing angles of incidence", IEEE Trans. on Antennas and propagation, 36(8),
August 1988.

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Annex 1 PROPOSED MODIFICATIONS TO


RECOMMENDATION ITU-R P.530-11

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