Quantifying Walker River stream temperature variability using distributed temperature sensing data

Monday, 15 December 2014
Alexander Josef Beck, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC, United States and Sarah E Null, Utah State University, Logan, UT, United States
Nevada’s Walker River historically supported Lahontan cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki henshawi), although today Lahontan cutthroat trout are listed as a federally threatened species and limited to isolated headwater reaches. Much of the lower Walker River is impaired for native aquatic species because of elevated stream temperatures and nutrients, and low streamflow and dissolved oxygen levels. We deployed a 1 kilometer single-ended fiber-optic Raman spectra distributed temperature sensing (DTS) cable in the Wabuska drain outlet and surrounding Walker River for one week in June 2014 to improve fine-scale understanding of stream temperatures. These data identify and quantify thermal variability of micro-habitat that standard temperature monitoring and modeling do not capture. Results indicate stream temperatures exceeded 26°C and a return flow channel exhibited greater thermal variability with both warmer daytime temperatures and cooler nighttime temperatures – possibly providing more complex thermal habitat during some flow conditions. Fine-scale DTS data complement ongoing stream temperature modeling by bounding thermal variability within model reaches that are 250 m long and where stream temperature is assumed to be well-mixed within each reach.