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Data Series 342

Data Series 342

Thermal Profiles for Selected River Reaches in the Yakima River Basin, Washington

Prepared in cooperation with the
Bureau of Reclamation, Washington State Department of Ecology, and the Yakama Nation

By J.J. Vaccaro, M.E. Keys, R.J. Julich, and W.B. Welch


Thermal profiles (data sets of longitudinal near-streambed temperature) that provide information on areas of potential ground-water discharge and salmonid habitat for 11 river reaches in the Yakima River basin, Washington, are available as Microsoft Excel™ files that can be downloaded from the Internet. Two reaches were profiled twice resulting in 13 profiles. Data were collected for all but one thermal profile during 2001. Data consist of date and time (Pacific Daylight), near-streambed water temperature, and latitude and longitude collected concurrently using a temperature probe and a Global Positioning System. The data were collected from a watercraft towing the probe with an internal datalogger while moving downstream in a Lagrangian framework.


This report is part of a larger study conducted as a cooperative effort of the U.S. Geological Survey, the Bureau of Reclamation, Washington State Department of Ecology, and the Yakama Nation (Jones and others, 2006). The purpose of the study was to develop a better understanding of the ground-water flow system, and its relation to surface-water resources, in the Yakima River basin, Washington. An interactive Google Maps™ image shows the location of the basin and the thermal-profile reaches ( The reach name is shown on the map when the cursor is over a reach. Clicking on any reach will display another map with a more detailed view of the thermal profile. Ranges in temperature are shown when the cursor is placed over any colored section of the reach.

This report makes available 13 thermal profiles for 11 river reaches in the Yakima River basin. The thermal profiles were obtained using a method developed by Vaccaro and Maloy (2006). These profiles can be used as a general tool for interested parties to identify potential areas of ground-water discharge and salmonid habitat.


The thermal profiles were collected to obtain information for identifying potential areas of ground-water discharge. The profiles also provide information on potential preferred salmonid habitat and thermal refugia. The method was developed in summer 2001 during low flows of a drought year. The method consists of collecting near-streambed streamflow temperature using a ground-water probe and geographic coordinates using a Global Positioning System (GPS) while drifting a stream reach in a Lagrangian framework (Vaccaro and Maloy, 2006). Temperature data were collected at 1- or 3-second intervals and GPS data at 1-second intervals.

Some temperature profiles are missing some temperature and (or) GPS measurements. In the initial development that profiled two reaches (the wapatox1 and reaches []), stops were made to download data from the GPS and the probe, but it was not known at that time that the temperature probe needed to be equilibrated to ambient streamflow temperature before starting a profile. Therefore, some temperature readings for the wapatox1 and reaches were not representative and were removed from the corresponding file, resulting in spatial and temporal discontinuities in the data. Similar discontinuities occurred along parts of other reaches due to stopping the profiling for portage around log jams, diversion dams, and (or) dangerous areas. These data also were removed from the files. For these latter cases, the discontinuity may be in time and (or) space. GPS satellite coverage varied within and between reaches and, as a result, some location information was less accurate than other location information because signals from fewer satellites were received by the GPS, which decreased location accuracy. In addition, GPS satellite coverage was lost in some areas. For these areas, the latitude and longitude in the files were linearly interpolated to the time of the temperature reading using the distance traveled between GPS readings. Spatially, these data points appear along a straight line between complete readings; Geographic Information System techniques can be used to move these points to the stream to approximately represent the actual locations. The time of missing GPS data is identified by blank fields in the ‘GPS Date’ and ‘GPS Time’ columns in the files.

File Naming Conventions and Format

The name of each reach on the Google Maps™ image ( also is the name of the Excel file containing the data. If a reach was profiled twice, then the file name ends in ‘1’ or ‘2’. The profile that was completed first ends in ‘1’.

Each file includes seven columns and as many rows as there are temperature data points. An example is shown below:

[Temperature in degrees Celsius (°C) may be converted to degrees Fahrenheit (°F) as follows: °F=(1.8×°C)+32]

Probe Date Time Temp (°C) Latitude Longitude GPS Date GPS Time
2001/31/07 9:48:07 13.83 46.747310 120.773360 7/31/2001 9:48:07
2001/31/07 9:48:10 13.83 46.747310 120.773360 7/31/2001 9:48:10

The ‘Time’ stamps for the probe (which was set to GPS time before initiating a profile) and GPS are Pacific Daylight time. The latitude and longitude data are in units of decimal degrees and referenced to the North American Datum of 1927 (NAD 27).

Distribution of Information

Listed below is a link to access a directory that contains all 13 Excel files with the thermal-profile data.

> Get thermal profile data (ZIP, 2.33 MB)

References Cited:

Jones, M.A., Vaccaro, J.J., and Watkins, A.M., 2006, Hydrogeologic framework of sedimentary deposits in six structural basins, Yakama River basin, Washington: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2006-5116, 24 p., 7 pls., accessed March 26, 2008, at

Vaccaro, J.J., and Maloy, K.J., 2006, A thermal profile method to identify potential ground-water discharge areas and preferred salmonid habitats for long river reaches: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2006-5136, 16 p., accessed March 26, 2008, at

Send questions or comments about this report to the first author, J.J. Vaccaro, (253) 552-1620.

For more information about USGS activities in Washington, visit the USGS Washington Water Science Center home page.

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