Articles | Volume 10, issue 6
Research article
09 Jun 2017
Research article |  | 09 Jun 2017

Quantitative analysis of the radiation error for aerial coiled-fiber-optic distributed temperature sensing deployments using reinforcing fabric as support structure

Armin Sigmund, Lena Pfister, Chadi Sayde, and Christoph K. Thomas

Abstract. In recent years, the spatial resolution of fiber-optic distributed temperature sensing (DTS) has been enhanced in various studies by helically coiling the fiber around a support structure. While solid polyvinyl chloride tubes are an appropriate support structure under water, they can produce considerable errors in aerial deployments due to the radiative heating or cooling. We used meshed reinforcing fabric as a novel support structure to measure high-resolution vertical temperature profiles with a height of several meters above a meadow and within and above a small lake. This study aimed at quantifying the radiation error for the coiled DTS system and the contribution caused by the novel support structure via heat conduction. A quantitative and comprehensive energy balance model is proposed and tested, which includes the shortwave radiative, longwave radiative, convective, and conductive heat transfers and allows for modeling fiber temperatures as well as quantifying the radiation error. The sensitivity of the energy balance model to the conduction error caused by the reinforcing fabric is discussed in terms of its albedo, emissivity, and thermal conductivity. Modeled radiation errors amounted to −1.0 and 1.3 K at 2 m height but ranged up to 2.8 K for very high incoming shortwave radiation (1000 J s−1 m−2) and very weak winds (0.1 m s−1). After correcting for the radiation error by means of the presented energy balance, the root mean square error between DTS and reference air temperatures from an aspirated resistance thermometer or an ultrasonic anemometer was 0.42 and 0.26 K above the meadow and the lake, respectively. Conduction between reinforcing fabric and fiber cable had a small effect on fiber temperatures (< 0.18 K). Only for locations where the plastic rings that supported the reinforcing fabric touched the fiber-optic cable were significant temperature artifacts of up to 2.5 K observed. Overall, the reinforcing fabric offers several advantages over conventional support structures published to date in the literature as it minimizes both radiation and conduction errors.