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May 2013    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 28, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Is Your Dive Computer Correct?

for depth and temperature, it may not be so accurate

from the May, 2013 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Your diving computer monitors and calculates your decompression schedule for each dive, based on continuous measurement and recording of pressure and time, and the depth displayed on your computer is an interpretation of the pressure measured. In the past, studies have discussed how the conversion of a pressure-to-depth estimate can be affected by environmental factors, like altitude. But what about factors like temperature and salinity?

The European standard used in many dive computers largely overlooks the fact that total accuracy with regard to depth can only be achieved through converting pressure readings in a combination of measured physical parameters, mostly water density and temperature. Only Cochran computers are capable of automatically adjusting for salinity changes. Most dive computers don't have that capability -- they have assumed calibrations for water density built in, letting the user switch between "freshwater" or "seawater." And almost no manuals don't explain their assumptions for pressure-todepth conversions.

Elaine Azzopardi and Martin Sayer of the UK National Facility for Scientific Diving in Scotland wanted to investigate how dive computers display depth when exposed to a number of pressures, and when set to seawater and freshwater modes at typical densities in both water types. Many computers also display water temperature, so those recordings were also studied....


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