The thermal regime of rivers: a review


Daniel Caissie, Fisheries and Oceans, Oceans and Sciences Branch, PO Box 5030, Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada E1C 9B6. E-mail:


1. The thermal regime of rivers plays an important role in the overall health of aquatic ecosystems, including water quality issues and the distribution of aquatic species within the river environment. Consequently, for conducting environmental impact assessments as well as for effective fisheries management, it is important to understand the thermal behaviour of rivers and related heat exchange processes.

2. This study reviews the different river thermal processes responsible for water temperature variability on both the temporal (e.g. diel, daily, seasonal) and spatial scales, as well as providing information related to different water temperature models currently found in the literature.

3. Water temperature models are generally classified into three groups: regression, stochastic and deterministic models. Deterministic models employ an energy budget approach to predict river water temperature, whereas regression and stochastic models generally rely on air to water temperature relationships.

4. Water temperature variability can occur naturally or as a result of anthropogenic perturbations, such as thermal pollution, deforestation, flow modification and climate change. Literature information is provided on the thermal regime of rivers in relation to anthropogenic impacts and such information will contribute to the better protection of fish habitat and more efficient fisheries management.