Monitoring Strong Tidal Currents in Straits and Nearshore Regions

  • Alexei Sentchev
  • Max Yaremchuk
  • Maxime Thiébaut
Part of the Springer Oceanography book series (SPRINGEROCEAN)


The strongest ocean currents occur in coastal regions and have tidal origin. In such regions, high current speeds are typically the result of topographic flow amplification. Despite their sparsity, these sites are optimal for installation of the tidal energy conversion devices, and, therefore, require special techniques for monitoring local currents that often exceed 3 m/s. In this chapter, two prospective techniques for monitoring extreme currents in the nearshore regions are presented. The first one is remote sensing of surface currents by High Frequency radars (HFRs). This method provides high temporal resolution (10–20 min) over large (102–104 km2) domains and long-time intervals, but lacks adequate horizontal resolution and cannot directly monitor the vertical structure of the flow. A complimentary method, based on underway ADCP observations: the use of towed ADCP system presents an opportunity of more focused velocity monitoring within limited (1–10 km2) domains at much higher (up to 50 m) horizontal resolution, over shorter time intervals. This kind of 4-dimensional mapping was performed in the Strait of Dover and in the West Solent. Transient eddies, large horizontal velocity gradients, and vertical shear in the velocity profiles were detected at each site, enabling a detailed characterization of the tidal stream. Combined with the dynamical constraints of a numerical model, the observed velocities significantly increase the accuracy in reconstruction of the full 4-dimensional tidal flow. The presented HFR-based and towed ADCP monitoring systems could be useful for regional model validation and studies of the local hydrodynamics with specific emphasis on resource assessment at tidal energy sites.



The authors acknowledge the support of the Interreg IVB (NW Europe) “Pro-Tide” project and support from the US Office of Naval Research. We also acknowledge the Oceanographic Division of the French Navy (SHOM) for providing ADCP and HF radar data in the Iroise Sea. The authors thank skipper Eric Lecuyer (LOG) and also Philippe Forget and Yves Barbin (MIO, Toulon) for their contribution to radar data processing.


  1. 1.
    Barrick, D. E. (2008). 30 years of CMTC and CODAR. In IEEE/OES 9th Working Conference on Current Measurement Technology, 2008. CMTC 2008 (pp. 131–136). IEEE.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bretherton, F. P., Davis, R. E., & Fandry, C. B. (1976). A technique for objective analysis and design of oceanographic experiments applied to MODE-73. In Deep-Sea Research and Oceanographic Abstracts (Vol. 23, pp. 559–582). Elsevier.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Dyer, K. R., & King, H. L. (1975). The residual water flow through the Solent, South England. Geophysical Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society, 42(1), 97–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Emery, B. M., Washburn, L., & Harlan, J. A. (2004). Evaluating radial current measurements from CODAR high-frequency radars with moored current meters. Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, 21(8), 1259–1271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Evans, P., Mason-Jones, A., Wilson, C., Wooldridge, C., O’Doherty, T., & O’Doherty, D. (2015). Constraints on extractable power from energetic tidal straits. Renewable Energy, 81, 707–722.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Friedrichs, C. T., & Aubrey, D. G. (1988). Non-linear tidal distortion in shallow well-mixed estuaries: a synthesis. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 27(5), 521–545.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Gandin, L. S., & Hardin, R. (1965). Objective analysis of meteorological fields (Vol. 242). Israel Program for Scientific Translations. Jerusalem.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Geyer, W. R., & Signell, R. (1990). Measurements of tidal flow around a headland with a shipboard acoustic Doppler current profiler. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 95(C3), 3189–3197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Goddijn-Murphy, L., Woolf, D. K., & Easton, M. C. (2013). Current patterns in the inner sound (Pentland Firth) from underway ADCP data. Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, 30(1), 96–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Gurgel, K. W., Antonischki, G., Essen, H. H., & Schlick, T. (1999). Wellen Radar (WERA): A new ground-wave HF radar for ocean remote sensing. Coastal Engineering, 37(3), 219–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Kaplan, D. M., & Lekien, F. (2007). Spatial interpolation and filtering of surface current data based on open-boundary modal analysis. Journal Geophysical Research, 112, C12007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Kirby, J. T., & Chen, T. M. (1989). Surface waves on vertically sheared flows: approximate dispersion relations. Journal Geophysical Research, 94(C1), 1013–1027.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Lazure, P., & Dumas, F. (2007). An external-internal model coupling for a 3D hydrodynamical model for applications at regional scale (MARS). Advances in Water Resources, 31, 233–250.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Li, C., Armstrong, S., & Williams, D. (2006). Residual eddies in a tidal channel. Estuaries and Coasts, 29(1), 147–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Neill, S. P., Hashemi, M. R., & Lewis, M. J. (2014). The role of tidal asymmetry in characterizing the tidal energy resource of Orkney. Renewable Energy, 68, 337–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Ohlmann, C., White, P., Washburn, L., Emery, B., Terrill, E., & Otero, M. (2007). Interpretation of coastal HF radar–derived surface currents with high-resolution drifter data. Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, 24(4), 666–680.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Paduan, J. D., & Washburn, L. (2013). High-frequency radar observations of ocean surface currents. Annual Review of Marine Science, 5, 115–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Polagye, B., & Thomson, J. (2013). Tidal energy resource characterization: Methodology and field study in Admiralty Inlet, Puget Sound, WA (USA). Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part A: Journal of Power and Energy.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Prandle, D. (1991). A new view of near-shore dynamics based on observations from HF radar. Progress in Oceanography, 27(3), 403–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Prandle, D., & Ryder, D. K. (1985). Measurement of surface currents in Liverpool Bay by high-frequency radar. Nature, 315, 128–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Röhrs, J., Sperrevik, A. K., Christensen, K. Ha., Broström, G., & Breivik, Ø. (2015). Comparison of HF radar measurements with Eulerian and Lagrangian surface currents. Ocean Dynamics, 65(5), 679–690.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Sentchev, A., Forget, P., Barbin, Y., & Yaremchuk, M. (2013). Surface circulation in the Iroise Sea (W. Brittany) from high resolution HF radar mapping. Journal of Marine Systems, 109, S153–S168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Sentchev, A., Forget, P., & Fraunié, P. (2017). Surface current dynamics under sea breeze conditions observed by simultaneous HF radar, ADCP and drifter measurements. Ocean Dynamics, 67(3–4), 499–512.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Sentchev, A., & Yaremchuk, M. (2007). VHF radar observations of surface currents off the northern Opal coast in the eastern English Channel. Continental Shelf Research, 27(19), 2449–2464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Sentchev, A., & Yaremchuk, M. (2016). Monitoring tidal currents with a towed ADCP system. Ocean Dynamics, 66(1), 119–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Stewart, R. H., & Joy, J. W. (1974). HF radio measurements of surface currents. In: Deep Sea Research and Oceanographic Abstracts (Vol. 21, pp. 1039–1049). Elsevier.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Teague, C. C., Vesecky, J. F., & Fernandez, D. M. (1997). HF radar instruments, past to present. Oceanography, 10, 40–44.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Thiébaut, M., & Sentchev, A. (2016). Tidal stream resource assessment in the Dover Strait (eastern English Channel). International Journal of Marine Energy, 16, 262–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Thiébaut, M., & Sentchev, A. (2017). Asymmetry of tidal currents off the W. Brittany coast and assessment of tidal energy resource around the Ushant Island. Renewable Energy, 105, 735–747.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Thiébaux, H. J., & Pedder, M. A. (1987). Spatial objective analysis with applications in atmospheric science. London: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Thomson, R. E., & Emery, W. J. (2001). Data analysis methods in physical oceanography. Elsevier.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Vennell, R. (1994). Acoustic Doppler current profiler measurements of tidal phase and amplitude in Cook Strait, New Zealand. Continental Shelf Research, 14(4), 353–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Yaremchuk, M., & Sentchev, A. (2009). Mapping radar-derived sea surface currents with a variational method. Continental Shelf Research, 29(14), 1711–1722.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Yaremchuk, M., & Sentchev, A. (2011). A combined EOF/variational approach for mapping radar-derived sea surface currents. Continental Shelf Research, 31(7), 758–768.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexei Sentchev
    • 1
  • Max Yaremchuk
    • 2
  • Maxime Thiébaut
    • 1
  1. 1.Lab. Oceanography and GeosciencesUMR 8187, LOG, Université du Littoral - Côte d’Opale, CNRS, Université de LilleWimereuxFrance
  2. 2.Naval Research LaboratoryStennis Space CenterHancockUSA

Personalised recommendations