Category Archives: hydrology

Ex-Stream: a program for calculating vertical fluid flux in porous media based on temperature profiles

CAGS2011Temperature is a useful environmental tracer for quantifying movement and exchange of water and heat through and near sediment–water interfaces (SWI). Heat tracing involves analyzing temperature time series or profiles from temperature probes deployed in sediments. Ex-Stream is a MATLAB program that brings together two transient and two steady one-dimensional coupled heat and fluid flux analytical models. The program includes a graphical user interface, a detailed user manual, a practice data set from Swanson and Cardenas (2010)[1], and postprocessing capabilities that enable users to extract fluid fluxes from time-series temperature observations. CAGS2011cProgram output is written to comma-separated values files, displayed within the MATLAB command window, and may be optionally plotted. The models that are integrated into Ex-Stream can be run collectively, allowing for direct comparison, or individually.



[1] Swanson, T., and M. Cardenas, 2010, Diel heat transport within the hyporheic zone of a pool-riffle-pool sequence of a losing stream and evaluation of models for fluid flux estimation using heat: Limnology and oceanography, v. 55, p. 1741-1754.

Investigating the hyporheic zone of a pool–riffle–pool sequence using natural heat as a tracer


A pool-riffle-pool sequence is a nearly ubiquitous element of stream bed morphology. The variabiltiy in bed elevation is thought to allow surface water to infiltrate through the stream bed the head of a riffle and upwell back to the stream at the tail of the riffle in a pool-riffle-pool (PRP) sequence, thus driving a surface water-ground water interaction termed hyporheic exchange. Because infiltrating surface water transports heat from daily heating and cooling; Heat tracing within the streambed sediments is a potentially useful method to characterize hyporheic exchange. For this purpose, temperature was monitored within a PRP sequence for several days at Jaramillo Creek in the Valles Caldera National Preserve. Temperature in the hyporheic zone below the pool-riffle-pool sequence reflected the diel temperature change in Jaramillo Creek but not uniformly. The observed thermal pattern exhibited deeper penetration of thermal oscillations below the head pool and shallower penetration below the tail pool. Play the video below to watch diel cycles of temperature change in sediments below a pool-riffle-pool sequence:

To learn more about one-dimensional analytical heat transport (tracing) models that can use such temperature information to estimate the exchange of water between streams and their associated aquifers, check out the manuscript by clicking on the image at the top of this blog post.

Poster presentation: Evaluating heat tracing models in a pool-riffle-pool sequence, GSA Portland 2009

gsaPoster2009A pool-riffle-pool sequence in streambed morphology is thought to drive hyporheic downwelling near the head of the riffle and upwelling at the tail of the riffle and head of the lower pool. Heat tracing is a potentially useful method to characterize these hyporheic flow paths. A pool-riffle-pool sequence within Jaramillo Creek, Valles Caldera National Preserve, New Mexico was instrumented with a two dimensional vertical array of thermistors during the summers of 2008 and 2009. Three one-dimensional analytical heat transport models (Hatch et al 2006, Keery et al 2007, and Schmidt et al 2007) were used to individually interpret sections of the pool-riffle-pool sequence to quantify vertical fluid fluxes. The modeled fluxes were then compared to values obtained from vertical hydraulic gradient and hydraulic conductivity measurements. The fluxes estimated by the heat tracing methods exhibit a trend that partly follows the conceptual model of a pool-riffle-pool sequence. The directly calculated fluxes mostly agree with heat tracing based estimates. The deviation in flux distribution from the conceptual “downwelling-upwelling” model is partly due to the dominantly loosing conditions at the study site. Moreover, varying assumptions concerning boundary conditions and physical properties of the streambed that are intrinsic to the analytical models produce somewhat inconsistent results between methods. Careful selection of a model for heat tracing is vital to obtaining accurate fluid flux estimates. Click on the image of the poster to download a PDF of the poster.

[1] Bredehoeft, J. D., and I. S. Papaopulos. 1965. Rates of vertical groundwater
movement estimated from the Earth’s thermal profile. Water Resources Research
1: 325-328. (PDF link)
[2] Hatch, C. E., A. T. Fisher, J. S. Revenaugh, J. Constantz, and C. Ruehl. 2006.
Quantifying surface water-groundwater interactions using time series analysis
of streambed thermal records: Method development. Water Resources Research 42. (PDF link)
[3] Keery, J., A. Binley, N. Crook, and J. W. N. Smith. 2007. Temporal and spatial variability
of groundwater-surface water fluxes: Development and application of an analytical
method using temperature time series. Journal of Hydrology 336: 1-554 16. (PDF link)
[4] Schmidt, C., B. Conant, M. Bayer-Raich, and M. Schirmer. 2007. Evaluation and
field-scale application of an analytical method to quantify groundwater discharge
using mapped streambed temperatures. Journal of Hydrology 347: 292-307. (PDF link)