Sudden instream releases of hypolimnetic water from hydropower plants [i.e. hydropeaking (HP)] can cause abrupt temperature variations [i.e. thermopeaking (TP)], typically on a daily basis. The propagation of discharge and thermal waves is asynchronous, causing the benthic community to undergo two different but consecutive impacts. Invertebrates respond to sudden increases in discharge with catastrophic drift, and respond to sudden changes of temperature with behavioural drift. Owing to the time lag separating discharge and thermal wave peaks, catastrophic and behavioural drift can occur as distinct events. We conducted simulations in a set of open air flumes directly fed by an Alpine stream, and analysed drift induction in benthic invertebrates caused by a HP wave followed by a cold TP wave, and compared it with drift induced only by a cold TP wave. Drift propensity increased during HP and TP simulations, with a synergic effect: drift was higher when the TP wave followed the HP one. We also recorded a selective effect: some taxa did not respond to the alterations, some taxa responded to the discharge variations and to the thermal variations, or to the thermal variations alone. The most abundant taxa in benthos were Chironomidae and Baetidae, followed by Simuliidae. Simuliidae and Chironomidae were the most abundant drifting taxa. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.