River Water Temperature in Relation to Local Air Temperature in the Mackenzie and Yukon Basins
Water temperature has an important impact on many aspects of basin hydrology and ecology. In the northern regions, investigation of river thermal regimes and their changes over space and time is a challenge because of data limitations. This study determines the water temperature regimes at several locations within the Yukon and Mackenzie River basins and examines their relationship with air temperature. The Yukon and Mackenzie Rivers have distinct water temperature dynamics. They remain near zero from freeze-up in the fall to ice breakup in the spring and reach their peak temperature during mid-summer. For the locations examined, peak mean monthly water temperatures ranged from 9˚ to 15˚C, and mean July air temperatures ranged from 13˚ to 16˚C. The lags between water and air temperatures ranged from 1 to 40 days. The largest lag was found at the Great Bear River monitoring location, since water temperature at this site is strongly influenced by the heat storage of Great Bear Lake. Tests of three models, linear regression, logical regression (s-shape), and the physically based air2stream model, show that the air2stream model provided the best results, followed by logical regression. Linear regression gave the poorest result. Model estimates of water temperature from air temperature were slightly improved by the inclusion of discharge data. The water temperature sampling regimes had a considerable effect on model performance; long-term data provide a more robust test of a model. Comparisons of mean monthly water temperatures suggest significant spatial variability and some inconsistency between upstream and downstream sites that is due mainly to differences in data collection schemes. This study strongly demonstrates the need to improve water temperature monitoring in the northern regions.
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