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ERIE Research Facilities:

Distributed Temperature Sensor Systems

The program has access to an innovative piece of field equipment, a distributed temperature sensor (DTS) that was acquired as part of an NSF equipment grant.  Although originally used in oil and gas exploration industries, DTS has recently been used in hydrologic applications including collecting distributed temperature profiles in lakes and streams, analyzing the air-snow interface temperature profile in glaciers, and measuring the connections between surface stream flows and subsurface water sources (Selker et al. 2006a, 2006b).  DTS uses a laser pulse to measure temperature, sending the pulse from a semi-conductor laser into a standard communications optical fiber, and then the system measures the backscattered light to determine the time-of-flight and position along the fiber optic cable.  Using fiber optic cables one to five kilometers long, temperature profiles can be collected at resolution on the order of one meter.  Advantages of DTS include the ability to collect spatial and temporal temperature profiles at a resolution that can give a better representation of a site than point-measurements.  In streams, this information is useful for identifying locations of groundwater seeps and hyporheic exchange, hypothesizing optimal areas of fish habitat, and monitoring changes in temperature profiles caused by restoration projects.

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