Thermal regimes are fundamental determinants of aquatic ecosystems, which makes description and prediction of temperatures critical during a period of rapid global change. The advent of inexpensive temperature sensors dramatically increased monitoring in recent decades, and although most monitoring is done by individuals for agency-specific purposes, collectively these efforts constitute a massive distributed sensing array that generates an untapped wealth of data. Using the framework provided by the National Hydrography Dataset, we organized temperature records from dozens of agencies in the western U.S. to create the NorWeST database that hosts >220,000,000 temperature recordings from >22,700 stream and river sites. Spatial-stream-network models were fit to a subset of those data that described mean August water temperatures (AugTw) during 63,641 monitoring site-years to develop accurate temperature models (r250.91; RMSPE51.108C; MAPE50.728C), assess covariate effects, and make predictions at 1 km intervals to create summer climate scenarios. AugTw averaged 14.28C (SD54.08C) during the baseline period of 1993–2011 in 343,000 km of western perennial streams but trend reconstructions also indicated warming had occurred at the rate of 0.178C/decade (SD50.0678C/decade) during the 40 year period of 1976–2015. Future scenarios suggest continued warming, although variation will occur within and among river networks due to differences in local climate forcing and stream responsiveness. NorWeST scenarios and data are available online in user-friendly digital formats and are widely used to coordinate monitoring efforts among agencies, for new research, and for conservation planning.
Related website: https://www.fs.fed.us/rm/boise/AWAE/projects/NorWeST.html