ADCP measurements of gravity currents in the Chicago River, Illinois

Carlos M. García, Kevin Oberg, Marcelo H. García

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A unique set of observations of stratified flow phenomena in the Chicago River was made using an upward-looking acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) during the period November 20, 2003 to February 1, 2004. Water density differences between the Chicago River and its North Branch (NB) seem to be responsible for the development of gravity currents. With the objective of characterizing the occurrence, frequency, and evolution of such currents, the ADCP was configured to continuously collect high-resolution water velocity and echo intensity profiles in the Chicago River at Columbus Drive. During the observation period, 28 gravity current events were identified, lasting a total of 77% of the time. Sixteen of these events were generated by underflows from the NB and 12 of these events were generated by overflows from the NB. On average, the duration of the underflow and overflow events was 52.3 and 42.1 h, respectively. A detailed analysis of one underflow event, which started on January 7, 2004, and lasted about 65h, was performed. This is the first time that ADCP technology has been used to continuously monitor gravity currents in a river.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1356-1366
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Hydraulic Engineering
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2007


  • Acoustic techniques
  • Density currents
  • Field tests
  • Rivers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Mechanical Engineering


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