Articles | Volume 20, issue 7
Research article
22 Jul 2016
Research article |  | 22 Jul 2016

A practical approach to lake water density from electrical conductivity and temperature

Santiago Moreira, Martin Schultze, Karsten Rahn, and Bertram Boehrer

Abstract. Density calculations are essential to study stratification, circulation patterns, internal wave formation and other aspects of hydrodynamics in lakes and reservoirs. Currently, the most common procedure is the use of CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth) profilers and the conversion of measurements of temperature and electrical conductivity into density. In limnic waters, such approaches are of limited accuracy if they do not consider lake-specific composition of solutes, as we show. A new approach is presented to correlate density and electrical conductivity, using only two specific coefficients based on the composition of solutes. First, it is necessary to evaluate the lake-specific coefficients connecting electrical conductivity with density. Once these coefficients have been obtained, density can easily be calculated based on CTD data. The new method has been tested against measured values and the most common equations used in the calculation of density in limnic and ocean conditions. The results show that our new approach can reproduce the density contribution of solutes with a relative error of less than 10 % in lake waters from very low to very high concentrations as well as in lakes of very particular water chemistry, which is better than all commonly implemented density calculations in lakes. Finally, a web link is provided for downloading the corresponding density calculator.

Short summary
Density calculations in lakes are essential in the study of stability, stratification and numerical modelling. However, density equations which use fixed constant coefficients are still common in use, despite their limitations. We present a practical approach which can specifically include the effect of dissolved substances by fitting two coefficients. The method has been tested against density equations and density measurements in lakes.