Water Resources Research

Statistical modeling of daily and subdaily stream temperatures: Application to the Methow River Basin, Washington



[1] Management of water temperatures in the Columbia River Basin (Washington) is critical because water projects have substantially altered the habitat of Endangered Species Act listed species, such as salmon, throughout the basin. This is most important in tributaries to the Columbia, such as the Methow River, where the spawning and rearing life stages of these cold water fishes occurs. Climate change projections generally predict increasing air temperatures across the western United States, with less confidence regarding shifts in precipitation. As air temperatures rise, we anticipate a corresponding increase in water temperatures, which may alter the timing and availability of habitat for fish reproduction and growth. To assess the impact of future climate change in the Methow River, we couple historical climate and future climate projections with a statistical modeling framework to predict daily mean stream temperatures. A K-nearest neighbor algorithm is also employed to: (i) adjust the climate projections for biases compared to the observed record and (ii) provide a reference for performing spatiotemporal disaggregation in future hydraulic modeling of stream habitat. The statistical models indicate the primary drivers of stream temperature are maximum and minimum air temperature and stream flow and show reasonable skill in predictability. When compared to the historical reference time period of 1916–2006, we conclude that increases in stream temperature are expected to occur at each subsequent time horizon representative of the year 2020, 2040, and 2080, with an increase of 0.8 ± 1.9°C by the year 2080.