Climatic Change

, Volume 144, Issue 4, pp 641–655 | Cite as

Projected warming portends seasonal shifts of stream temperatures in the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem, USA and Canada

  • Leslie A. Jones
  • Clint C. Muhlfeld
  • Lucy A. Marshall
Article

Abstract

Climate warming is expected to increase stream temperatures in mountainous regions of western North America, yet the degree to which future climate change may influence seasonal patterns of stream temperature is uncertain. In this study, a spatially explicit statistical model framework was integrated with empirical stream temperature data (approximately four million bi-hourly recordings) and high-resolution climate and land surface data to estimate monthly stream temperatures and potential change under future climate scenarios in the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem, USA and Canada (72,000 km2). Moderate and extreme warming scenarios forecast increasing stream temperatures during spring, summer, and fall, with the largest increases predicted during summer (July, August, and September). Additionally, thermal regimes characteristic of current August temperatures, the warmest month of the year, may be exceeded during July and September, suggesting an earlier onset and extended duration of warm summer stream temperatures. Models estimate that the largest magnitude of temperature warming relative to current conditions may be observed during the shoulder months of winter (April and November). Summer stream temperature warming is likely to be most pronounced in glacial-fed streams where models predict the largest magnitude (> 50%) of change due to the loss of alpine glaciers. We provide the first broad-scale analysis of seasonal climate effects on spatiotemporal patterns of stream temperature in the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem for better understanding climate change impacts on freshwater habitats and guiding conservation and climate adaptation strategies.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.US Geological SurveyNorthern Rocky Mountain Science CenterWest GlacierUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological ScienceUniversity of MontanaMissoulaUSA
  3. 3.Alaska Center for Conservation ScienceUniversity of Alaska AchorageAnchorageUSA
  4. 4.Flathead Lake Biological StationUniversity of MontanaPolsonUSA
  5. 5.School of Civil and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

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