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Analysis of current-meter data at Columbia River gaging stations, Washington and Oregon

January 1, 1971

The U.S. Geological Survey developed equipment to measure stream velocity simultaneously with 10 current meters arranged in a vertical and to measure velocity closer to the streambed than attainable with conventional equipment.

With the 10 current meters, synchronous velocities were recorded for a period of 66 minutes at 10 different depths in one vertical of one gaging-station cross section. In addition, with a current meter installed on a special bracket to allow measurements to 0.5 foot above streambed, data were obtained at two to four verticals in four gaging-station cross sections.

The mean velocity determined for the 66-minute period of record was 3.30 fps (feet per second). The graphic record of velocity was analyzed on a minute-by-minute basis. It was noted that the shape of the vertical velocity curves (plot of horizontal flow velocities measured in a vertical) changed from one minute to the next, but the change seemed to be random. Velocities obtained at different depths in the, profile fluctuated significantly, with the 1-minute velocities obtained at 0.05 depth (5 percent of total depths measured from the surface at indicated vertical) showing the smallest range--0.66 fps--and those at 0.55 depth the largest range--l.22 fps.

The standard deviation, expressed in feet per second, of the velocity at each point in the vertical tended to increase with depth--from 0.16 fps at 0.05 depth to a maximum of 0.24 fps at 0.75 depth. The standard deviation, expressed as a percentage of the mean velocity, ranged from about 4 percent near the surface to 11 percent at 0.95 depth. In spite of the fluctuation in mean velocity that occurred during the 66 minutes and observation period of 4 minutes yields a mean velocity that differs from the 66-minute mean by less than one-half of a percent.

Determining the mean velocity by averaging the 10-point observations of the 66minute run proved to be as accurate as by plotting the vertical velocity curvy (from the averaged 10 points) and then integrating the depth-velocity profile. In comparing the velocity obtained by integrating the depth-velocity profile with the 10-point mean velocity for other field data, collected beyond that obtained during the 66-minute run, the difference ranged from -1.3 to +1.7 percent and averaged -0.2 percent. Extension of the curve below the 0.95 depth by use of a power function proved to be fairly accurate (when compared with actual measurements within this reach made with the special current-meter bracket). However, the extension did not improve significantly the accuracy of the integrated-curve mean velocity.

Both the one- and two-point methods were found to agree with the 10-point velocity. In computing mean river velocity, values determined by the two-point method ranged from -1.4 to +1.6 percent when compared with the base integrated-curve mean river velocity. The one-point method yielded results that ranged from -1.9 to +4.4 percent and averaged 40.1 percent.

In determining river flow by use of the midsection and mean-section methods, the mean-section method uniformly yields lower flows for the same dart.. The range in difference is from -0.2 percent to -1.6 percent, with an average difference of -0.6 percent.

Publication Year 1971
Title Analysis of current-meter data at Columbia River gaging stations, Washington and Oregon
DOI 10.3133/wsp1869F
Authors John Savini, G. L. Bodhaine
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Water Supply Paper
Series Number 1869
Index ID wsp1869F
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse