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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 18, issue 12 | Copyright
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 18, 4897-4912, 2014
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-18-4897-2014
© Author(s) 2014. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 08 Dec 2014

Research article | 08 Dec 2014

Climate change and stream temperature projections in the Columbia River basin: habitat implications of spatial variation in hydrologic drivers

D. L. Ficklin1,7, B. L. Barnhart2, J. H. Knouft4,3, I. T. Stewart5, E. P. Maurer6, S. L. Letsinger7, and G. W. Whittaker2 D. L. Ficklin et al.
  • 1Department of Geography, Indiana University, 701 E. Kirkwood Ave., Bloomington, IN 47405, USA
  • 2Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, 3450 SW Campus Way, Corvallis, OR 97333, USA
  • 3Department of Biology, Saint Louis University, 3507 Laclede Ave., St. Louis, MO 63103, USA
  • 4Center for Environmental Sciences, Saint Louis University, 3507 Laclede Ave., St. Louis, MO 63103, USA
  • 5Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Santa Clara University, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95053, USA
  • 6Civil Engineering Department, Santa Clara University, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95053, USA
  • 7Center for Geospatial Data Analysis, Indiana Geological Survey, 611 N. Walnut Grove, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA

Abstract. Water temperature is a primary physical factor regulating the persistence and distribution of aquatic taxa. Considering projected increases in air temperature and changes in precipitation in the coming century, accurate assessment of suitable thermal habitats in freshwater systems is critical for predicting aquatic species' responses to changes in climate and for guiding adaptation strategies. We use a hydrologic model coupled with a stream temperature model and downscaled general circulation model outputs to explore the spatially and temporally varying changes in stream temperature for the late 21st century at the subbasin and ecological province scale for the Columbia River basin (CRB). On average, stream temperatures are projected to increase 3.5 °C for the spring, 5.2 °C for the summer, 2.7 °C for the fall, and 1.6 °C for the winter. While results indicate changes in stream temperature are correlated with changes in air temperature, our results also capture the important, and often ignored, influence of hydrological processes on changes in stream temperature. Decreases in future snowcover will result in increased thermal sensitivity within regions that were previously buffered by the cooling effect of flow originating as snowmelt. Other hydrological components, such as precipitation, surface runoff, lateral soil water flow, and groundwater inflow, are negatively correlated to increases in stream temperature depending on the ecological province and season. At the ecological province scale, the largest increase in annual stream temperature was within the Mountain Snake ecological province, which is characterized by migratory coldwater fish species. Stream temperature changes varied seasonally with the largest projected stream temperature increases occurring during the spring and summer for all ecological provinces. Our results indicate that stream temperatures are driven by local processes and ultimately require a physically explicit modeling approach to accurately characterize the habitat regulating the distribution and diversity of aquatic taxa.

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We use a hydrologic model coupled with a stream temperature model and downscaled general circulation model outputs to explore changes in stream temperature in the Columbia River basin for the late 21st century. On average, stream temperatures are projected to increase 3.5 °C for the spring, 5.2 °C for the summer, 2.7 °C for the fall, and 1.6 °C for the winter. Our results capture the important, and often ignored, influence of hydrological processes on changes in stream temperature.
We use a hydrologic model coupled with a stream temperature model and downscaled general...
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