Accurate measurement of suspended sediment concentration (SSC) in highly turbid environments has been a problem due to optical or acoustic signal saturation and attenuation. The saturation returns a limited measurement range, and the attenuation raises an ambiguity problem that a low optical or acoustic output could mean a low or a high SSC. In this study, an integrated optic and acoustic (IOA) approach is proposed to (i) overcome the ambiguity problem; (ii) increase the measurement range to high SSC values; and (iii) obtain high-resolution SSC profiles. The IOA approach is a combination of Argus Suspension Meter (ASM), Optical Backscatter Sensor (OBS) and Acoustic Doppler Velocimeter (ADV). In this approach, the ASM-derived SSC is preferred because of its lowest relative error, followed by OBS and ADV. The ASM can produce high-resolution (1 cm interval) SSC profiles when it is not saturated (usually SSC < 9 g/L). When ASM is saturated, the SSC is recovered by OBS. Since the ambiguity problem is solved, the measurement range of OBS and ADV can be extended up to 300 g/L. The best way to use an ADV, however, is to have a rough estimation first and assist in the OBS conversion, because its estimates contain large uncertainty. To further mitigate the impact of sediment particle size on SSC retrieval, we suggest the usage of in-situ sediment samples for sensor calibration. The IOA approach was verified in the Yangtze Estuary which is a highly turbid system. Comparison of the IOA approach outputs against water sampling results demonstrates the reliability of the IOA approach with a relative error of 17–34%. The observed high SSCs were up to 63 g/L. The field data show that high SSCs were confined in the benthic layer (within 2 m above the bed) in the wet season under a high river discharge, whereas the suspension was better mixed throughout the water column in the dry season.
- Acoustic Doppler Velocimeter
- Argus Suspension Meter
- Concentrated benthic suspension
- Optical Backscatter Sensor
- Suspended sediment concentration