What is the cause of conductivity drift?

Conductivity cells drift primarily as a function of cell fouling. There are several sources of the fouling:

  • Biological growth is the primary source of cell fouling. Rinsing the conductivity cell with clean de-ionized water after each cast helps prevent most growth in the cell. If the cell is not rinsed, or standard tap water is used, growth rates can be severe. As the cell fouls, it will drift towards lower salinity values.
  • Surface oil slicks also cause cell fouling. Avoid deploying the CTD through obvious slicks. When working in coastal areas, with higher chances of oil fouling, rinse and soak the cell with a 1% Triton X-100 solution (diluted in clean DI water) to help prevent oil fouling.

See Application Note 2D: Instructions for Care and Cleaning of Conductivity Cells for rinsing, cleaning, and storage procedures.

Because of the nature of fouling, the total cell drift may not be linear. It exhibits rapid small shifts (especially if related to oil fouling) on top of a base line drift. It is important to take water samples to document the behavior. Application Note 31: Computing Temperature and Conductivity Slope and Offset Correction Coefficients from Laboratory Calibrations and Salinity Bottle Samples discusses how to correct the data.