Although there is widespread agreement that future climates tend toward warming, the response of aquatic ecosystems to that warming is not well understood. This work, a continuation of companion research, explores the role of distinct watershed pathways in lagging and dampening climate-change signals. It subjects a synthetic flow and transport model to a 30-year warming signal based on climate projections, quantifying the heat breakthrough on a monthly time step along connected pathways. The system corresponds to a temperate watershed roughly 27 km on a side and consists of (a) land-surface processes of overland flow, (b) infiltration through an unsaturated zone (UZ) above an unconfined sandy aquifer overlying impermeable bedrock, and (c) groundwater flow along shallow and deep pathlines that converge as discharge to a surface-water network. Numerical simulations show that about 40% of the warming applied to watershed infiltration arrives at the water table and that the UZ stores a large fraction of the upward-trending heat signal. Additionally, once groundwater reaches the surface-water network after traveling through the saturated zone, only about 10% of the original warm-up signal is returned to streams by discharge. However, increases in the simulated streamflow temperatures are of similar magnitude to increases at the water table, due to the addition of heat by storm runoff, which bypasses UZ and groundwater storage and counteracts subsurface dampening. The synthetic modeling method and tentative findings reported here provide a potential workflow for real-world applications of climate-change modeling at the full watershed scale.
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