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Concept: Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment


The Northwest India Aquifer (NWIA) has been shown to have the highest groundwater depletion (GWD) rate globally, threatening crop production and sustainability of groundwater resources. Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites have been emerging as a powerful tool to evaluate GWD with ancillary data. Accurate GWD estimation is, however, challenging because of uncertainties in GRACE data processing. We evaluated GWD rates over the NWIA using a variety of approaches, including newly developed constrained forward modeling resulting in a GWD rate of 3.1 ± 0.1 cm/a (or 14 ± 0.4 km(3)/a) for Jan 2005-Dec 2010, consistent with the GWD rate (2.8 cm/a or 12.3 km(3)/a) from groundwater-level monitoring data. Published studies (e.g., 4 ± 1 cm/a or 18 ± 4.4 km(3)/a) may overestimate GWD over this region. This study highlights uncertainties in GWD estimates and the importance of incorporating a priori information to refine spatial patterns of GRACE signals that could be more useful in groundwater resource management and need to be paid more attention in future studies.

Concepts: Time, Statistics, Estimation, A priori, A priori and a posteriori, Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, Ancillary data


The melting of polar ice sheets is a major contributor to global sea-level rise. Early estimates of the mass lost from the Greenland ice cap, based on satellite gravity data collected by the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, have widely varied. Although the continentally and decadally averaged estimated trends have now more or less converged, to this date, there has been little clarity on the detailed spatial distribution of Greenland’s mass loss and how the geographical pattern has varied on relatively shorter time scales. Here, we present a spatially and temporally resolved estimation of the ice mass change over Greenland between April of 2002 and August of 2011. Although the total mass loss trend has remained linear, actively changing areas of mass loss were concentrated on the southeastern and northwestern coasts, with ice mass in the center of Greenland steadily increasing over the decade.

Concepts: Time, General relativity, Ice sheet, Greenland ice sheet, Space, Spacetime, Universe, Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment


Assessing reliability of global models is critical because of increasing reliance on these models to address past and projected future climate and human stresses on global water resources. Here, we evaluate model reliability based on a comprehensive comparison of decadal trends (2002-2014) in land water storage from seven global models (WGHM, PCR-GLOBWB, GLDAS NOAH, MOSAIC, VIC, CLM, and CLSM) to trends from three Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite solutions in 186 river basins (∼60% of global land area). Medians of modeled basin water storage trends greatly underestimate GRACE-derived large decreasing (≤-0.5 km3/y) and increasing (≥0.5 km3/y) trends. Decreasing trends from GRACE are mostly related to human use (irrigation) and climate variations, whereas increasing trends reflect climate variations. For example, in the Amazon, GRACE estimates a large increasing trend of ∼43 km3/y, whereas most models estimate decreasing trends (-71 to 11 km3/y). Land water storage trends, summed over all basins, are positive for GRACE (∼71-82 km3/y) but negative for models (-450 to -12 km3/y), contributing opposing trends to global mean sea level change. Impacts of climate forcing on decadal land water storage trends exceed those of modeled human intervention by about a factor of 2. The model-GRACE comparison highlights potential areas of future model development, particularly simulated water storage. The inability of models to capture large decadal water storage trends based on GRACE indicates that model projections of climate and human-induced water storage changes may be underestimated.

Concepts: Human, Water, Sea level, Drainage basin, Amazon River, Ocean, Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment


Dividing the sea-level budget into contributions from ice sheets and glaciers, the water cycle, steric expansion, and crustal movement is challenging, especially on regional scales. Here, Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) gravity observations and sea-level anomalies from altimetry are used in a joint inversion, ensuring a consistent decomposition of the global and regional sea-level rise budget. Over the years 2002-2014, we find a global mean steric trend of 1.38 ± 0.16 mm/y, compared with a total trend of 2.74 ± 0.58 mm/y. This is significantly larger than steric trends derived from in situ temperature/salinity profiles and models which range from 0.66 ± 0.2 to 0.94 ± 0.1 mm/y. Mass contributions from ice sheets and glaciers (1.37 ± 0.09 mm/y, accelerating with 0.03 ± 0.02 mm/y(2)) are offset by a negative hydrological component (-0.29 ± 0.26 mm/y). The combined mass rate (1.08 ± 0.3 mm/y) is smaller than previous GRACE estimates (up to 2 mm/y), but it is consistent with the sum of individual contributions (ice sheets, glaciers, and hydrology) found in literature. The altimetric sea-level budget is closed by coestimating a remaining component of 0.22 ± 0.26 mm/y. Well above average sea-level rise is found regionally near the Philippines (14.7 ± 4.39 mm/y) and Indonesia (8.3 ± 4.7 mm/y) which is dominated by steric components (11.2 ± 3.58 mm/y and 6.4 ± 3.18 mm/y, respectively). In contrast, in the central and Eastern part of the Pacific, negative steric trends (down to -2.8 ± 1.53 mm/y) are detected. Significant regional components are found, up to 5.3 ± 2.6 mm/y in the northwest Atlantic, which are likely due to ocean bottom pressure variations.

Concepts: Water, Sea level, Ice, Oceanography, Hydrology, Water cycle, In situ, Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment


Disagreements across different reanalyses over South Asia result into uncertainty in assessment of water availability, which is computed as the difference between Precipitation and Evapotranspiration (P-E). Here, we compute P-E directly from atmospheric budget with divergence of moisture flux for different reanalyses and find improved correlation with observed values of P-E, acquired from station and satellite data. We also find reduced closure terms for water cycle computed with atmospheric budget, analysed over South Asian landmass, when compared to that obtained with individual values of P and E. The P-E value derived with atmospheric budget is more consistent with energy budget, when we use top-of-atmosphere radiation for the same. For analysing water cycle, we use runoff from Global Land Data Assimilation System, and water storage from Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment. We find improvements in agreements across different reanalyses, in terms of inter-annual cross correlation when atmospheric budget is used to estimate P-E and hence, emphasize to use the same for estimations of water availability in South Asia to reduce uncertainty. Our results on water availability with reduced uncertainty over highly populated monsoon driven South Asia will be useful for water management and agricultural decision making.

Concepts: Water, Earth, Precipitation, Climate, Hydrology, Water cycle, Asia, Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment


Recent estimates of Antarctica’s present-day rate of ice-mass contribution to changes in sea level range from 31 gigatonnes a year (Gt yr(-1); ref. 1) to 246 Gt yr(-1) (ref. 2), a range that cannot be reconciled within formal errors. Time-varying rates of mass loss contribute to this, but substantial technique-specific systematic errors also exist. In particular, estimates of secular ice-mass change derived from Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite data are dominated by significant uncertainty in the accuracy of models of mass change due to glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA). Here we adopt a new model of GIA, developed from geological constraints, which produces GIA rates systematically lower than those of previous models, and an improved fit to independent uplift data. After applying the model to 99 months (from August 2002 to December 2010) of GRACE data, we estimate a continent-wide ice-mass change of -69 ± 18 Gt yr(-1) (+0.19 ± 0.05 mm yr(-1) sea-level equivalent). This is about a third to a half of the most recently published GRACE estimates, which cover a similar time period but are based on older GIA models. Plausible GIA model uncertainties, and errors relating to removing longitudinal GRACE artefacts (‘destriping’), confine our estimate to the range -126 Gt yr(-1) to -29 Gt yr(-1) (0.08-0.35 mm yr(-1) sea-level equivalent). We resolve 26 independent drainage basins and find that Antarctic mass loss, and its acceleration, is concentrated in basins along the Amundsen Sea coast. Outside this region, we find that West Antarctica is nearly in balance and that East Antarctica is gaining substantial mass.

Concepts: Ice sheet, Drainage basin, Antarctica, West Antarctic Ice Sheet, West Antarctica, Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, Southern Ocean, East Antarctica


Droughts are some of the worst natural disasters that bring significant water shortages, economic losses, and adverse social consequences. Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite data are widely used to characterize and evaluate droughts. In this work, we evaluate drought situations in the Yangtze River Basin (YRB) using the GRACE Texas Center for Space Research (CSR) mascon (mass concentration) data from 2003 to 2015. Drought events are identified by water storage deficits (WSDs) derived from GRACE data, while the drought severity evaluation is based on the water storage deficit index (WSDI), standardized WSD time series, and total water storage deficit (TWSD). The WSDI is subsequently compared with the Palmer drought severity index (PDSI), standardized precipitation index (SPI), standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index (SPEI), and standardized runoff index (SRI). The results indicate the YRB experienced increased wetness during the study period, with WSD values increasing at a rate of 5.20mm/year. Eight drought events are identified, and three major droughts occurred in 2004, 2006, and 2011, with WSDIs of -2.05, -2.38, and -1.30 and TWSDs of -620.96mm, -616.81mm, and -192.44mm, respectively. Our findings suggest that GRACE CSR mascon data can be used effectively to assess drought features in the YRB and that the WSDI facilitates robust and reliable characterization of droughts over large-scale areas.

Concepts: Water, Precipitation, China, Hydrology, Water cycle, Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, Drought, Palmer Drought Index


Climate change can significantly influence terrestrial water changes around the world particularly in places that have been proven to be more vulnerable such as Bangladesh. In the past few decades, climate impacts, together with those of excessive human water use have changed the country’s water availability structure. In this study, we use multi-mission remotely sensed measurements along with a hydrological model to separately analyze groundwater and soil moisture variations for the period 2003-2013, and their interactions with rainfall in Bangladesh. To improve the model’s estimates of water storages, terrestrial water storage (TWS) data obtained from the Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission are assimilated into the World-Wide Water Resources Assessment (W3RA) model using the ensemble-based sequential technique of the Square Root Analysis (SQRA) filter. We investigate the capability of the data assimilation approach to use a non-regional hydrological model for a regional case study. Based on these estimates, we investigate relationships between the model derived sub-surface water storage changes and remotely sensed precipitations, as well as altimetry-derived river level variations in Bangladesh by applying the empirical mode decomposition (EMD) method. A larger correlation is found between river level heights and rainfalls (78% on average) in comparison to groundwater storage variations and rainfalls (57% on average). The results indicate a significant decline in groundwater storage (∼32% reduction) for Bangladesh between 2003 and 2013, which is equivalent to an average rate of 8.73 ± 2.45mm/year.

Concepts: Water, Precipitation, Hydrology, Water cycle, Irrigation, Water resources, Surface runoff, Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment


The solid Earth deforms elastically in response to variations of surface atmosphere, hydrology, and ice/glacier mass loads. Continuous geodetic observations by Global Positioning System (CGPS) stations and Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) record such deformations to estimate seasonal and secular mass changes. In this paper, we present the seasonal variation of the surface mass changes and the crustal vertical deformation in the South China Block (SCB) identified by GPS and GRACE observations with records spanning from 1999 to 2016. We used 33 CGPS stations to construct a time series of coordinate changes, which are decomposed by empirical orthogonal functions (EOFs) in SCB. The average weighted root-mean-square (WRMS) reduction is 38% when we subtract GRACE-modeled vertical displacements from GPS time series. The first common mode shows clear seasonal changes, indicating seasonal surface mass re-distribution in and around the South China Block. The correlation between GRACE and GPS time series is analyzed which provides a reference for further improvement of the seasonal variation of CGPS time series. The results of the GRACE observations inversion are the surface deformations caused by the surface mass change load at a rate of about -0.4 to -0.8 mm/year, which is used to improve the long-term trend of non-tectonic loads of the GPS vertical velocity field to further explain the crustal tectonic movement in the SCB and surroundings.

Concepts: Navigation, Season, Global Positioning System, Time series analysis, Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, Global navigation satellite system, GPS, Geodesy


Groundwater is a resilient water source and its importance is even greater in periods of drought. Areas such as the Mediterranean where adverse climate change effects are expected are bell-weather locations for groundwater depletion and are of considerable interest. The present study evaluates renewable groundwater stress (RGS) as the ratio of groundwater use to groundwater availability, quantifying use as the trend in gravity recovery and climate experiment-derived (GRACE) subsurface anomalies (ΔGWtrend ) and renewable groundwater availability as mean annual recharge. Estimates for mean annual recharge for the various regions in Greece have been derived using numerical models. Our results highlight two RGS regimes in Greece (variable stress and unstressed) of the four characteristic stress regimes, that is, overstressed, variable stress, human-dominated stress, and unstressed, defined as a function of the sign of use and the sign of groundwater availability (positive or negative). Variable stress areas are found in Central Greece (Thessaly region), where intensive agriculture results in negative ΔGWtrend values combined with positive mean annual recharge rates. RGS values range from -0.05 to 0, indicating a low impact area. Within this region, adverse effects of groundwater overexploitation are already evident based on the negative GRACE anomalies; however, recharge is still positive, mitigating the effects of over-pumping. The rest of Greek aquifers fall within the unstressed category, with RGS values from 0.02 to 0.05, indicating that the rate of use is less than the natural recharge rate.

Concepts: Aquifer, Groundwater, Ratio, 0, Determinant, Greece, Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, Thessaly