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Use of heat to estimate streambed fluxes during extreme hydrologic events

January 1, 2009

Using heat as a tracer, quantitative estimates of streambed fluxes and the critical stage for flow reversal were calculated for high‐flow events that occurred on the Bogue Phalia (a tributary of the Mississippi River) following the 2005 Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. In June 2005, piezometers were installed in the Bogue Phalia upstream from the stream gage near Leland, Mississippi, to monitor temperature. Even with the hurricanes, precipitation in the Bogue Phalia Basin for the months of June to October 2005 was below normal, and consequently, streamflow was below the long‐term average. Temperature profiles from the piezometers indicate that the Bogue Phalia was a gaining stream during most of this time, but relatively static streambed temperatures suggested long‐term data was warranted for heat‐based estimates of flux. However, the hurricanes caused a pair of sharp rises in stream stage over short periods of time, increasing the potential for rapid heat‐based modeling and for identification of the critical stage for flow reversal into the streambed. Heat‐based modeling fits of simulated‐to‐measured sediment temperatures show that once a critical stage was surpassed, flow direction reversed into the streambed. Results of this study demonstrate the ability to constrain estimates of streambed water flux and the critical stage of flow reversal, with little available groundwater head data, by using heat as a tracer during extreme stage events.

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