Using thermal tracers to estimate flow velocities of shallow flows: laboratory and field experiments

Rui L.P. de Lima 1 , 2 , João R.C.B. Abrantes 2 , 3 , João L.M.P. de Lima 2 , 3  and M. Isabel P. de Lima 2 , 3
  • 1 INDYMO, Molengraaffsingel 12-14, 2629 JD Delft, The Netherlands
  • 2 Institute of Marine Research (IMAR) and Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre (MARE), Faculty of Science and Technology of the University of Coimbra, 3004-517 Coimbra, Portugal
  • 3 Department of Civil Engineering, Faculty of Science and Technology of the University of Coimbra (DEC-FCTUC), Rua Luís Reis Santos, Campus II - University of Coimbra, 3030-788 Coimbra, Portugal


Accurate measurement of shallow flows is important for hydraulics, hydrology and water resources management. The objective of this paper is to discuss a technique for shallow flow and overland flow velocity estimation that uses infrared thermography. Laboratory flumes and different bare, vegetated and paved field surfaces were used to test the technique. Results show that shallow flow surface velocities estimated using thermal tracers and infrared technology are similar to estimates obtained using the Acoustic Doppler Velocimeter; similar results were also obtained for overland flow velocity estimates using thermography, here comparing with the dye tracer technique. The thermographic approach revealed some potential as a flow visualization technique, and leaves space for future studies and research.

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