Quantification of drainable water storage volumes on landmasses and in river networks based on GRACE and river runoff using a cascaded storage approach – first application on the Amazon

Riegger, Johannes

The knowledge of water storage volumes in catchments and in river networks leading to river discharge is essential for the description of river ecology, the prediction of floods and specifically for a sustainable management of water resources in the context of climate change. Measurements of mass variations by the GRACE gravity satellite or by ground-based observations of river or groundwater level variations do not permit the determination of the respective storage volumes, which could be considerably bigger than the mass variations themselves.

For fully humid tropical conditions like the Amazon the relationship between GRACE and river discharge is linear with a phase shift. This permits the hydraulic time constant to be determined and thus the total drainable storage directly from observed runoff can be quantified, if the phase shift can be interpreted as the river time lag. As a time lag can be described by a storage cascade, a lumped conceptual model with cascaded storages for the catchment and river network is set up here with individual hydraulic time constants and mathematically solved by piecewise analytical solutions.

Tests of the scheme with synthetic recharge time series show that a parameter optimization either versus mass anomalies or runoff reproduces the time constants for both the catchment and the river network inline-formulaτC and inline-formulaτR in a unique way, and this then permits an individual quantification of the respective storage volumes. The application to the full Amazon basin leads to a very good fitting performance for total mass, river runoff and their phasing (Nash–Sutcliffe for signals 0.96, for monthly residuals 0.72). The calculated river network mass highly correlates (0.96 for signals, 0.76 for monthly residuals) with the observed flood area from GIEMS and corresponds to observed flood volumes.

The fitting performance versus GRACE permits river runoff and drainable storage volumes to be determined from recharge and GRACE exclusively, i.e. even for ungauged catchments. An adjustment of the hydraulic time constants (inline-formulaτC, inline-formulaτR) on a training period facilitates a simple determination of drainable storage volumes for other times directly from measured river discharge and/or GRACE and thus a closure of data gaps without the necessity of further model runs.

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Riegger, Johannes: Quantification of drainable water storage volumes on landmasses and in river networks based on GRACE and river runoff using a cascaded storage approach – first application on the Amazon. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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