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Analysis of streambed temperatures in ephemeral channels to determine streamflow frequency and duration

January 1, 2001

Spatial and temporal patterns in streamflow are rarely monitored for ephemeral streams. Flashy, erosive streamflows common in ephemeral channels create a series of operational and maintenance problems, which makes it impractical to deploy a series of gaging stations along ephemeral channels. Streambed temperature is a robust and inexpensive parameter to monitor remotely, leading to the possibility of analyzing temperature patterns to estimate streamflow frequency and duration along ephemeral channels. A simulation model was utilized to examine various atmospheric and hydrological upper boundary conditions compared with a series of hypothetical temperature‐monitoring depths within the streambed. Simulation results indicate that streamflow events were distinguished from changing atmospheric conditions with greater certainty using temperatures at shallow depths (e.g., 10–20 cm) as opposed to the streambed surface. Three ephemeral streams in the American Southwest were instrumented to monitor streambed temperature for determining the accuracy of using this approach to ascertain the long‐term temporal and spatial extent of streamflow along each stream channel. Streambed temperature data were collected at the surface or at shallow depth along each stream channel, using thermistors encased in waterproof, single‐channel data loggers tethered to anchors in the channel. On the basis of comparisons with site information, such as direct field observations and upstream flow records, diurnal temperature variations successfully detected the presence and duration of streamflow for all sites.

Publication Year 2001
Title Analysis of streambed temperatures in ephemeral channels to determine streamflow frequency and duration
DOI 10.1029/2000WR900271
Authors James E. Constantz, David A. Stonestrom, Amy E. Stewart, Richard G. Niswonger, Tyson R. Smith
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Water Resources Research
Index ID 70023602
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Nevada Water Science Center; Toxic Substances Hydrology Program