Acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCPs) provide a means to measure the components of water current velocities in three dimensions. Such instruments have been used widely by the oil industry in deep offshore waters but their application to nearshore coastal and estuarine environments has been principally confined to the USA. Using examples of ADCP datasets acquired from the macrotidal Tay Estuary, eastern Scotland, the principles of field deployment, data acquisition and forms of output are critically summarised. It is shown, for the first time in the Tay Estuary, that vertical current velocities are significant and are particularly so in downwelling zones associated with the development and passage of axially convergent tidal fronts. The improved understanding of three-dimensional water and suspended sediment dynamics in coastal and estuarine waters is crucial to, inter alia, the sustainable management of effluent discharges and, in more general terms, it is predicted on the basis of the Tay case study, that ADCP measurements afford significant opportunities to refine understanding of geomorphological processes in a variety of aquatic environments worldwide.
- Three-dimensional current structure
- Frontal systems
- Tay Estuary