Distributed fiber-optic temperature sensing for hydrologic systems



[1] Instruments for distributed fiber-optic measurement of temperature are now available with temperature resolution of 0.01°C and spatial resolution of 1 m with temporal resolution of fractions of a minute along standard fiber-optic cables used for communication with lengths of up to 30,000 m. We discuss the spectrum of fiber-optic tools that may be employed to make these measurements, illuminating the potential and limitations of these methods in hydrologic science. There are trade-offs between precision in temperature, temporal resolution, and spatial resolution, following the square root of the number of measurements made; thus brief, short measurements are less precise than measurements taken over longer spans in time and space. Five illustrative applications demonstrate configurations where the distributed temperature sensing (DTS) approach could be used: (1) lake bottom temperatures using existing communication cables, (2) temperature profile with depth in a 1400 m deep decommissioned mine shaft, (3) air-snow interface temperature profile above a snow-covered glacier, (4) air-water interfacial temperature in a lake, and (5) temperature distribution along a first-order stream. In examples 3 and 4 it is shown that by winding the fiber around a cylinder, vertical spatial resolution of millimeters can be achieved. These tools may be of exceptional utility in observing a broad range of hydrologic processes, including evaporation, infiltration, limnology, and the local and overall energy budget spanning scales from 0.003 to 30,000 m. This range of scales corresponds well with many of the areas of greatest opportunity for discovery in hydrologic science.