Ferries for Science: Using WSDOT Ferries to Observe Tidal Currents
July 19, 2019
ADCP installed on the MV Salish

In Washington’s Puget Sound, scientists are conducting long-term monitoring of currents to improve navigation safety and to characterize tidal energy resources.  This type of research can be expensive, but an innovative, cost-effective solution has been achieved—the use of acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCPs) installed onboard Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) ferries, which run through Puget Sound year-round, to collect data.  In a paper published in the Journal of Ocean Engineering and Marine Energy, Maricarmen Guerra and coauthors from the University of Washington, Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology), and Integral senior consultant Brandon Sackmann, Ph.D., present project details and flow velocity observations collected from 2014 to 2017.

Ecology and WSDOT have partnered with the University of Washington Applied Physics Laboratory to implement and maintain a Ferry-Based Monitoring System of Puget Sound Currents.  The project’s purpose is to map circulation in Admiralty Inlet and estimate the exchange of water between Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, to improve and calibrate Puget Sound water-quality models.  ADCPs installed onboard the MV Kennewick and MV Salish continuously collect water velocities across Admiralty Inlet during the multiple daily runs of the ferries.

Long-term observations of currents across Admiralty Inlet from ferry-mounted ADCPs are quality controlled, organized, and tested to capture tidal current harmonics and residual flows.  Ferry-based data provide new insights on the spatial distribution of currents in Admiralty Inlet.  Results obtained so far could improve tidal current maps throughout Admiralty Inlet, estimates of the tidal energy resource available, and numerical hydrodynamic models of the area.

For more information, contact Dr. Sackmann at bsackmann@integral-corp.com.

Read the article.