Conventional detection of humpback vocalizations is often based on frequency summation of band-limited spectrograms under the assumption that energy (square of the Fourier amplitude) is the appropriate metric. Power-law detectors allow for a higher power of the Fourier amplitude, appropriate when the signal occupies a limited but unknown subset of these frequencies. Shipping noise is non-stationary and colored and problematic for many marine mammal detection algorithms. Modifications to the standard power-law form are introduced to minimize the effects of this noise. These same modifications also allow for a fixed detection threshold, applicable to broadly varying ocean acoustic environments. The detection algorithm is general enough to detect all types of humpback vocalizations. Tests presented in this paper show this algorithm matches human detection performance with an acceptably small probability of false alarms (P-FA < 6%) for even the noisiest environments. The detector outperforms energy detection techniques, providing a probability of detection P-D = 95% for P-FA < 5% for three acoustic deployments, compared to P-FA > 40% for two energy-based techniques. The generalized power-law detector also can be used for basic parameter estimation and can be adapted for other types of transient sounds. (C) 2012 Acoustical Society of America. [DOI: 10.1121/1.3685790]

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