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Fiber-optic distributed temperature sensing: A new tool for assessment and monitoring of hydrologic processes

John W. Lane, Jr., U.S. Geological Survey, Storrs, CT

Frederick D. Day-Lewis, U.S. Geological Survey, Storrs, CT

Carole D. Johnson, U.S. Geological Survey, Storrs, CT

Cian B. Dawson, U.S. Geological Survey, Storrs, CT

David L. Nelms, U.S. Geological Survey, Richmond, VA

Cheryl A. Eddy-Miller, U.S. Geological Survey, Cheyenne, WY

Jerrod D. Wheeler, U.S. Geological Survey, Riverton, WY

Charles F. Harvey, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA

Hanan Karam, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA


Fiber-optic distributed temperature sensing (FO DTS) is an emerging technology for characterizing and monitoring a wide range of important earth processes. FO DTS utilizes laser light to measure temperature along the entire length of standard telecommunications optical fibers. The technology can measure temperature every meter over FO cables up to 30 kilometers (km) long. Commercially available systems can measure fiber temperature as often as 4 times per minute, with thermal precision ranging from 0.1 to 0.01 °C depending on measurement integration time.

In 2006, the U.S. Geological Survey initiated a project to demonstrate and evaluate DTS as a technology to support hydrologic studies. This paper demonstrates the potential of the technology to assess and monitor hydrologic processes through case-study examples of FO DTS monitoring of stream-aquifer interaction on the Shenandoah River near Locke’s Mill, Virginia, and on Fish Creek, near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and estuary-aquifer interaction on Waquoit Bay, Falmouth, Massachusetts. The ability to continuously observe temperature over large spatial scales with high spatial and temporal resolution provides a new opportunity to observe and monitor a wide range of hydrologic processes with application to other disciplines including hazards, climate-change, and ecosystem monitoring.

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Final copy as submitted to SAGEEP for publication as: Lane, J.W., Jr., Day-Lewis, F.D., Johnson, C.D., Dawson, C.B., Nelms, D.L., Eddy-Miller, C.A., Wheeler, J.D., Harvey, C.F., and Karam, H., 2008, Fiber-optic distributed temperature sensing: A new tool for assessment and monitoring of hydrologic processes, in Symposium on the Application of Geophysics to Engineering and Environmental Problems, April 6-10, 2008, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Proceedings: Denver, Colorado, Environmental and Engineering Geophysical Society, 9 p.

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