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The Design and Development of an Irish Sea Passenger-Ferry-Based Oceanographic Measurement System

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  • 1 National Oceanography Centre, Liverpool, United Kingdom
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Abstract

An evolving coastal observatory has been hosted by the National Oceanography Centre at Liverpool, United Kingdom, for more than nine years. Within this observatory an instrumented ferry system has been developed and operated to provide near-surface scientific measurements of the Irish Sea. Passenger vessels such as ferries have the potential to be used as cost-effective platforms for gathering high-resolution regular measurements of the properties of near-surface water along their routes. They are able to operate on an almost year-round basis, and they usually have a high tolerance to adverse weather conditions. Examples of the application of instrumented ferry systems include environmental monitoring, the generation of long-term measurement time series, the provision of information for predictive model validation, and data for model assimilation purposes.

This paper discusses the development of an engineering system installed on board an Irish Sea passenger ferry. Particular attention is paid to explaining the engineering development required to achieve a robust, automated measuring system that is suitable for long-term continuous operation. The ferry, operating daily between Birkenhead and Belfast or Dublin, United Kingdom, was instrumented between December 2003 and January 2011 when the route was closed. Measurements were recorded at a nominal interval of 100 m and real-time data were transmitted every 15 min. The quality of the data was assessed. The spatial and temporal variability of the temperature and salinity fields are investigated as the ferry crosses a variety of shelf sea and coastal water column types.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Christopher Balfour, National Oceanography Centre, 3 Brownlow St., Liverpool L3 5DA, United Kingdom. E-mail: cabal@noc.ac.uk

Abstract

An evolving coastal observatory has been hosted by the National Oceanography Centre at Liverpool, United Kingdom, for more than nine years. Within this observatory an instrumented ferry system has been developed and operated to provide near-surface scientific measurements of the Irish Sea. Passenger vessels such as ferries have the potential to be used as cost-effective platforms for gathering high-resolution regular measurements of the properties of near-surface water along their routes. They are able to operate on an almost year-round basis, and they usually have a high tolerance to adverse weather conditions. Examples of the application of instrumented ferry systems include environmental monitoring, the generation of long-term measurement time series, the provision of information for predictive model validation, and data for model assimilation purposes.

This paper discusses the development of an engineering system installed on board an Irish Sea passenger ferry. Particular attention is paid to explaining the engineering development required to achieve a robust, automated measuring system that is suitable for long-term continuous operation. The ferry, operating daily between Birkenhead and Belfast or Dublin, United Kingdom, was instrumented between December 2003 and January 2011 when the route was closed. Measurements were recorded at a nominal interval of 100 m and real-time data were transmitted every 15 min. The quality of the data was assessed. The spatial and temporal variability of the temperature and salinity fields are investigated as the ferry crosses a variety of shelf sea and coastal water column types.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Christopher Balfour, National Oceanography Centre, 3 Brownlow St., Liverpool L3 5DA, United Kingdom. E-mail: cabal@noc.ac.uk
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