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Aquatic habitat mapping with an acoustic doppler current profiler: Considerations for data quality

July 1, 2020

When mounted on a boat or other moving platform, acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCPs) can be used to map a wide range of ecologically significant phenomena, including measures of fluid shear, turbulence, vorticity, and near-bed sediment transport. However, the instrument movement necessary for mapping applications can generate significant errors, many of which have not been inadequately described. This report focuses on the mechanisms by which moving-platform errors are generated, and quantifies their magnitudes under typical habitat-mapping conditions. The potential for velocity errors caused by mis-alignment of the instrument?s internal compass are widely recognized, but has not previously been quantified for moving instruments. Numerical analyses show that even relatively minor compass mis-alignments can produce significant velocity errors, depending on the ratio of absolute instrument velocity to the target velocity and on the relative directions of instrument and target motion. A maximum absolute instrument velocity of about 1 m/s is recommended for most mapping applications. Lower velocities are appropriate when making bed velocity measurements, an emerging application that makes use of ADCP bottom-tracking to measure the velocity of sediment particles at the bed. The mechanisms by which heterogeneities in the flow velocity field generate horizontal velocities errors are also quantified, and some basic limitations in the effectiveness of standard error-detection criteria for identifying these errors are described. Bed velocity measurements may be particularly vulnerable to errors caused by spatial variability in the sediment transport field.

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