Tidal Research In Minas Passage Uses Radar Tracking

Marine radar is usually adjusted to filter out water turbulence. But a new research project is using the technology to map waves and currents at a Parrsboro-area site being used for tidal energy development. The project, which involves a trio of researchers in the province and abroad, will help determine the best location for tidal turbines and other infrastructure in the western part of the Minas Passage. The demonstration site is operated by the non-profit Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy. Centre oceanographer Joel Culina said the new project will complement the seabed mapping that has been done at the site. “We’re going to create an atlas of flow-field maps over tidal and lunar cycles,” Culina said in an interview. “Of course, the flow field repeats itself, basically, over tidal and lunar cycles, so we’re going to want to analyze over tidal and lunar cycles. And we’re going to want to analyze it multiple times so that our data gets better and better quality.” Culina is working on the wave and current mapping with fellow researchers John Brzustowski of Acadia University and Paul Bell of the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, England. The underwater images will be gathered using a radar system mounted on the roof of the FORCE visitor centre, which overlooks the Minas Passage. The technology, on loan from Acadia, monitors water speeds at the site 24 hours a day. The system was installed in the fall so the signal could be adjusted to produce the best image quality possible, Culina said. “It actually operates similarly to a space satellite,” he said. “It’s just bouncing its signal off the water but in extremely high detail. It can pick out waves and then from that you can determine the velocity field.” The centre has used preliminary data to produce a time-lapse video showing water movement at the site over a 25-hour period, or two tide cycles. The video can be seen at vimeo.com/120687070. Culina said the process of analyzing images is getting underway and will continue throughout the spring and summer. The goal is to have the atlas completed by fall, he said.