Using Diurnal Temperature Signals to Infer Vertical Groundwater-Surface Water Exchange

Dylan J. Irvine, Martin A. Briggs, Laura K. Lautz, Ryan P. Gordon, Jeffrey M. McKenzie, Ian Cartwright

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Heat is a powerful tracer to quantify fluid exchange between surface water and groundwater. Temperature time series can be used to estimate pore water fluid flux, and techniques can be employed to extend these estimates to produce detailed plan-view flux maps. Key advantages of heat tracing include cost-effective sensors and ease of data collection and interpretation, without the need for expensive and time-consuming laboratory analyses or induced tracers. While the collection of temperature data in saturated sediments is relatively straightforward, several factors influence the reliability of flux estimates that are based on time series analysis (diurnal signals) of recorded temperatures. Sensor resolution and deployment are particularly important in obtaining robust flux estimates in upwelling conditions. Also, processing temperature time series data involves a sequence of complex steps, including filtering temperature signals, selection of appropriate thermal parameters, and selection of the optimal analytical solution for modeling. This review provides a synthesis of heat tracing using diurnal temperature oscillations, including details on optimal sensor selection and deployment, data processing, model parameterization, and an overview of computing tools available. Recent advances in diurnal temperature methods also provide the opportunity to determine local saturated thermal diffusivity, which can improve the accuracy of fluid flux modeling and sensor spacing, which is related to streambed scour and deposition. These parameters can also be used to determine the reliability of flux estimates from the use of heat as a tracer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-26
Number of pages17
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


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