Classification of Thermal Patterns at Karst Springs and Cave Streams

Andrew J Luhmann, Matthew D. Covington, Andrew J. Peters, Scott C. Alexander, Cale T. Anger, Jeffrey A. Green, Anthony C. Runkel, E. Calvin Alexander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Thermal patterns of karst springs and cave streams provide potentially useful information concerning aquifer geometry and recharge. Temperature monitoring at 25 springs and cave streams in southeastern Minnesota has shown four distinct thermal patterns. These patterns can be divided into two types: those produced by flow paths with ineffective heat exchange, such as conduits, and those produced by flow paths with effective heat exchange, such as small fractures and pore space. Thermally ineffective patterns result when water flows through the aquifer before it can equilibrate to the rock temperature. Thermally ineffective patterns can be either event-scale, as produced by rainfall or snowmelt events, or seasonal scale, as produced by input from a perennial surface stream. Thermally effective patterns result when water equilibrates to rock temperature, and the patterns displayed depend on whether the aquifer temperature is changing over time. Shallow aquifers with seasonally varying temperatures display a phase-shifted seasonal signal, whereas deeper aquifers with constant temperatures display a stable temperature pattern. An individual aquifer may display more than one of these patterns. Since karst aquifers typically contain both thermally effective and ineffective routes, we argue that the thermal response is strongly influenced by recharge mode.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)324-335
Number of pages12
JournalGround water
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2011


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