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Home Interpreting the Data HRECOS Stories HRECOS Stories Observations from the Sloop Clearwater

Observations from the Sloop Clearwater

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The HRECOS station on the sloop Clearwater has been in service for 7 weeks (see live data feed here). Even in this short time, useful stories have started to emerge from the data.

This past weekend, Don Chesley and I from the Stevens Institute celebrated these findings at the Clearwater Great Hudson River Revival, the music festival held every year to benefit Clearwater's environmental research, education, and advocacy efforts in the Hudson Valley. 

One of the primary uses of data collected by the sloop Clearwater is to refine the predictions made by the NYHOPS forecasts at the Stevens Institute. By comparing the predicted conditions to what is actually observed, modelers can identify inaccuracies and improve future forecasts. Previous to the HRECOS station on the Clearwater, there were long stretches of the river where no data were being collected. 

The Indian Point Power Plant in Buchanan, NY is an example of a site that has a significant influence on river conditions which is not captured by the fixed monitoring stations. This plant draws 2.5 billion gallons per day from the Hudson River to cool the reactors and discharges the heated water back to the river. The NYHOPS model uses historical data to predict how much this process warms the surrounding Hudson waters each day.

Sloop Clearwater passed the Indian Point Power Plant on June 13, 2010 and observed raised water temperatures. This and other observations can be used to refine the NYHOPS model for Hudson River Conditions.

On June 13, the sloop Clearwater passed the Indian Point Power Plant at 10pm. The NYHOPS forecast predicted temperatures would be raised by as much as 3 degrees adjacent to the plant and that currents would carry this plume upriver just as the Clearwater was passing. As predicted, the Clearwater station observed the highest temperatures upriver from the plant. What was unexpected was that these high temperatures were observed very close to the western shore. Using multiple observations such as this, the model can be refined to improve the predicted impact of this site.

Not only can the HRECOS station on the Clearwater improve forecasts; we also hope it will check the quality of the data collection at our fixed HRECOS stations. Our fixed sites were selected because they best capture the conditions of the river at that location. This is tested every time the sloop Clearwater passes by. So far the results have been positive and the observations from fixed and mobile stations have been similar. If large differences are observed, however, we would need to reconsider our selected locations.

At the Clearwater Revival, Mr. Chesley and I displayed some of the tracks the Clearwater has made over the past 7 weeks. "Wow" and "cool!" were a common response when I displayed the simple salinity gradient the sloop captures as it travels across the salt front. This was a reminder that a third and significant benefit of the HRECOS station on the Clearwater is to excite people about the river.

For many, the invisible chemical measurements are hard to appreciate. They aren't something you can hold in your hand like a wiggling eel and yet they influence all life in the river. Our collaborating educators report that this mobile station is an easy way to excite students about water chemistry. The beautiful color gradients passing by familiar locations are a lively way to convey these important and abstract measurements.

This Monday morning, the Clearwater is docked at Croton Point Park and the instrument is turned off. Soon, with the help of the crew, we would like to run the station even when the sloop is docked in order to monitor ecosystems we previously did not have access to. Until then, the sloop and her crew can have their deserved rest after such a lively and eventful weekend. 

"I was very pleased with the amount of interest I saw among the visitors and got great satisfaction from spreading the word," said my colleague, Don Chesley. I couldn't agree more. To that we owe great thanks to the Clearwater staff as well as staff from the Hudson River Estuary Program who helped with our display.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 July 2010 09:28