, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 100-110
Date: 29 Oct 2008

Thermal Variability in a Tidal River

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In this paper, we discuss observations of temperature variability in the tidal portion of the San Joaquin River in California. The San Joaquin River makes up the southern portion of the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta, the eastern end of San Francisco Bay. Observations made in August 2004 and August 2005 show significant diurnal variations in temperature in response to surface heat exchange. However, to account for observed changes in heat content a sizeable downstream heat flux (approximately 100 W m−2) must be added to the surface heat flux. To account for this flux via Fickian dispersion, a flow-dependent dispersion coefficient varying from 500 to 4,000 m2 s−1 is needed. These values are much larger than would be predicted for a river of this size, suggesting that the complex topology of the Delta greatly enhances longitudinal dispersion. Building on these observations, we present a simple theory that explores how the subtidal temperature field varies in response to changes in flow rate, dispersion, and heat exchange.