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A model for evaluating stream temperature response to climate change scenarios in Wisconsin

January 1, 2010

Global climate change is expected to alter temperature and flow regimes for streams in Wisconsin over the coming decades. Stream temperature will be influenced not only by the predicted increases in average air temperature, but also by changes in baseflow due to changes in precipitation patterns and amounts. In order to evaluate future stream temperature and flow regimes in Wisconsin, we have integrated two existing models in order to generate a water temperature time series at a regional scale for thousands of stream reaches where site-specific temperature observations do not exist. The approach uses the US Geological Survey (USGS) Soil-Water-Balance (SWB) model, along with a recalibrated version of an existing artificial neural network (ANN) stream temperature model. The ANN model simulates stream temperatures on the basis of landscape variables such as land use and soil type, and also includes climate variables such as air temperature and precipitation amounts. The existing ANN model includes a landscape variable called DARCY designed to reflect the potential for groundwater recharge in the contributing area for a stream segment. SWB tracks soil-moisture and potential recharge at a daily time step, providing a way to link changing climate patterns and precipitation amounts over time to baseflow volumes, and presumably to stream temperatures. The recalibrated ANN incorporates SWB-derived estimates of potential recharge to supplement the static estimates of groundwater flow potential derived from a topographically based model (DARCY). SWB and the recalibrated ANN will be supplied with climate drivers from a suite of general circulation models and emissions scenarios, enabling resource managers to evaluate possible changes in stream temperature regimes for Wisconsin.