Stream temperature investigations: field and analytic methods



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This document provides guidance to the user of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Stream Network Temperature Model (SNTEMP). Planning a temperature study is discussed in terms of understanding the management objectives and ensuring that the questions will be accurately answered with the modeling approach being used.

A sensitivity analysis of SNTEMP is presented to illustrate which input variables are most important in predicting stream temperatures. This information helps prioritize data collection activities, highlights the need for quality control, focuses on which parameters can be estimated rather than measured, and offers a broader perspective on management options in terms of knowing where the biggest temperature response will be felt.

All of the major input variables for stream geometry, meteorology, and hydrology are discussed in detail. Each variable is defined, with guidance given on how to measure it, what kind of equipment to use, where to obtain it from another agency, and how to calculate it if the data are in a form other than that required by SNTEMP. Examples are presented for the various forms in which water temperature, discharge, and meteorological data are commonly found. Ranges of values for certain input variables that are difficult to measure of estimate are given. Particular attention is given to those variables not commonly understood by field biologists likely to be involved in a stream temperature study. Pertinent literature is cited for each variable, with emphasis on how other people have treated particular problems and on results they have found.

Model calibration, verification, and validation steps are defined and outlines, with measures of "goodness-of-fit" given for comparing simulated stream temperatures with observed values. The question of how good is good enough is explored, and attention is given to the kinds of simulation and data reduction errors that one should be alert for.

Some special cases dealing with ice and reservoir temperature are mentioned. Special attention is given to understanding micro-thermal habitats that act as important thermal refugia under low flow conditions; their causes, extent, and management implications are discussed.

Alternative public domain stream and reservoir temperature models are contrasted with SNTEMP. A distinction is made between steady-flow and dynamic-flow models and their respective capabilities. Regression models are offered as an alternative approach for some situations, with appropriate mathematical formulas suggested.

Appendices provide information on State and Federal agencies that are good data sources, vendors for field instrumentation, and small computer programs useful in data reduction.

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Other Report
Title Stream temperature investigations: field and analytic methods
Series number Biological Report 89(17)
Year Published 1989
Language English
Publisher U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Publisher location Washington, D.C.
Description 139 p.
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