Hydrogeologic controls on summer stream temperatures in the McKenzie River basin, Oregon

Christina L. Tague, Michael Farrell, Gordon Grant, Sarah Lewis, Serge Rey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


Stream temperature is a complex function of energy inputs including solar radiation and latent and sensible heat transfer. In streams where groundwater inputs are significant, energy input through advection can also be an important control on stream temperature. For an individual stream reach, models of stream temperature can take advantage of direct measurement or estimation of these energy inputs for a given river channel environment. Understanding spatial patterns of stream temperature at a landscape scale requires predicting how this environment varies through space, and under different atmospheric conditions. At the landscape scale, air temperature is often used as a surrogate for the dominant controls on stream temperature. In this study we show that, in regions where groundwater inputs are key controls and the degree of groundwater input varies in space, air temperature alone is unlikely to explain within-landscape stream temperature patterns. We illustrate how a geologic template can offer insight into landscape-scale patterns of stream temperature and its predictability from air temperature relationships. We focus on variation in stream temperature within headwater streams within the McKenzie River basin in western Oregon. In this region, as in other areas of the Pacific Northwest, fish sensitivity to summer stream temperatures continues to be a pressing environmental issue. We show that, within the McKenzie, streams which are sourced from deeper groundwater reservoirs versus shallow subsurface flow systems have distinct summer temperature regimes. Groundwater streams are colder, less variable and less sensitive to air temperature variation. We use these results from the western Oregon Cascade hydroclimatic regime to illustrate a conceptual framework for developing regional-scale indicators of stream temperature variation that considers the underlying geologic controls on spatial variation, and the relative roles played by energy and water inputs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3288-3300
Number of pages13
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number24
StatePublished - Nov 15 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Geologic template
  • Groundwater
  • McKenzie River
  • Oregon Cascades
  • Stream temperature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


Dive into the research topics of 'Hydrogeologic controls on summer stream temperatures in the McKenzie River basin, Oregon'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this