Title

GRACE-based estimates of terrestrial freshwater 
discharge from basin to continental scales

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2-1-2009

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.1175/2008JHM993.1

Abstract

In this study, new estimates of monthly freshwater discharge from continents, drainage regions, and global land for the period of 2003–05 are presented. The method uses observed terrestrial water storage change estimates from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) and reanalysis-based atmospheric moisture divergence and precipitable water tendency in a coupled land–atmosphere water mass balance. The estimates of freshwater discharge are analyzed within the context of global climate and compared with previously published estimates. Annual cycles of observed streamflow exhibit stronger correlations with the computed discharge compared to those with precipitation minus evapotranspiration (PE) in several of the world’s largest river basins. The estimate presented herein of the mean monthly discharge from South America (∼846 km3 month−1) is the highest among the continents and that flowing into the Atlantic Ocean (∼1382 km3 month−1) is the highest among the drainage regions. The volume of global freshwater discharge estimated here is 30 354 ± 1212 km3 yr−1. Monthly variations of global freshwater discharge peak between August and September and reach a minimum in February. Global freshwater discharge is also computed using a global ocean–atmosphere mass balance in order to validate the land–atmosphere water balance estimates and as a measure of global water budget closure. Results show close proximity between the two estimates of global discharge at monthly (RMSE = 329 km3 month−1) and annual time scales (358 km3 yr−1). Results and comparisons to observations indicate that the method shows important potential for global-scale monitoring of combined surface water and submarine groundwater discharge at near-real time, as well as for contributing to contemporary global water balance studies and for constraining global hydrologic model simulations.

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No

Citation / Publisher Attribution

Journal of Hydrometeorology, v. 10, n. 1. p. 22-40, February 2009.

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