Thermal IR – Taking Earth's Temperature
WSI pioneered the use of thermal infrared (TIR) imagery to accurately depict the distribution of water temperatures at high resolution across broad spatial scales -- data of a scope and caliber, which is unattainable using traditional ground-based monitoring techniques. Our TIR imagery enables researchers to evaluate the structure and dynamics of water temperature at reach and watershed scales, pinpointing the locations and thermal influences of point sources, tributaries, and surface springs. Our results allow researchers and engineers to identify and prioritize conservation and restoration opportunities within aquatic landscapes.
Specific research applications have included characterizing the prevailing thermal structure of aquatic landscapes, mapping sources and extent of thermal threats and refugia for fish communities, detecting point source mixing zones, identifying areas of groundwater upwelling, delineating wetted channels, and detecting how changes in flow management affect thermal habitat.
TIR images provide a snapshot of temperatures at the time of the survey, usually conducted during peak water temperatures to maximize thermal resolution. With repeated snapshots, temporal variability in thermal structure can also provide clues to processes that interact to determine water temperatures. When combined with other airborne spatial datasets (e.g., LiDAR data), TIR data can illustrate reach-scale thermal responses to changes in stream morphology, vegetation, and land-use patterns.