Longer-term water temperature behaviour in an upland stream

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Abstract

Water temperature behaviour in a small upland Exmoor catchment (the Black Ball Stream) has been studied over a 14-year period since January 1976. Results from continuous records revealed annual mean stream temperatures to have a coefficient of variation of less than 5 per cent, and values of 5,10 and 15°C to be equalled or exceeded 90,41.8 and 4 per cent of the time respectively. The annual regime of water temperature was relatively predictable but diel cycles of varying magnitude were superimposed on the seasonal march. A clear seasonal hysteresis was evident whereby diel range in spring exceeded that in autumn by typically more than 2°C. Trend analysis of monthly temperature time series highlighted the stability of the thermal regime in recent years, although investigation of air-water temperature relationships indicated that an increase in mean surface air temperature projected for southwest England by the Year 2050 would result in a rise of mean winter and summer stream temperatures by 1.6 and 1.3°C respectively. Analysis of streamflow effects on water temperature suggested that future indirect impacts of climatic change on thermal regime via changes in stream discharge are likely to be minor.

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