Miniature thermistor chain for determining surficial sediment porewater advection

Jonathan P. Fram, Geno R. Pawlak, Francis J. Sansone, Brian T. Glazer, Angelos K. Hannides

Limnol. Oceanogr. Methods 12:155-165 (2014) | DOI: 10.4319/lom.2014.12.155

ABSTRACT: A miniature thermistor chain (mTc) was developed to measure the subdiurnal variability of temperature in the upper layers of subtidal coastal permeable (sandy) sediments and across the sediment-water interface (SWI). The mTc has 15 precision thermistors (0.002°C accuracy) attached by narrow tines to a stainless steel backbone that connects to an electronics module, all of which is buried in the top 20 cm of the sediment. Instrument performance was tested by deploying the mTc in nearshore permeable sediment at the Kilo Nalu Observatory, Oahu, Hawaii over an 80-d period. The mTc reached thermal equilibrium with the adjoining sediment within a few days after deployment and then recorded the advective propagation of the sub-daily water-column temperature variation into the sediment. The data produced are consistent with predicted effects of surface waves on advective porewater transport: transport rate increased with wave height and decreased with depth below the SWI, and temperature time lag increased with depth below the SWI. Data from an independent, more deeply buried thermistor are in good agreement with the mTc time-series data, showing attenuated temperature variability and similar (but longer, as expected) thermal time lags. Because thermal variations in surficial sediments is dominated by advection in wavy environments, mTc subdiurnal temperature propagation data can be used to calculate advective transport across the SWI and as deep as 20 cm into the sediment (i.e., over depths where advection dominates over thermal diffusion).