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Fengge Su and Dennis P. Lettenmaier

Abstract

The Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) land surface hydrology model forced by gridded observed precipitation and temperature for the period 1979–99 is used to simulate the land surface water balance of the La Plata basin (LPB). The modeled water balance is evaluated with streamflow observations from the major tributaries of the LPB. The spatiotemporal variability of the water balance terms of the LPB are then evaluated using offline VIC model simulations, the 40-yr European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts Re-Analysis (ERA-40), and inferences obtained from a combination of these two. The seasonality and interannual variability of the water balance terms vary across the basin. Over the Uruguay River basin and the entire LPB, precipitation (P) exceeds evapotranspiration (E) and the basins act as a moisture sink. However, the Paraguay River basin acts as a net source of moisture in dry seasons (strong negative PE). The annual means and monthly time series of ERA-40 P are in good agreement with gauge observations over the entire LPB and its subbasins, except for the Uruguay basin. The E estimates from VIC and inferred from the ERA-40 atmospheric moisture budget are consistent in both seasonal and interannual variations over the entire LPB, but large discrepancies exist between the two E estimates over the subbasins. The long-term mean of atmospheric moisture convergence PE agrees well with observed runoff R for the upper Paraná River basin, whereas the imbalance is large (28%) for the Uruguay basin—possibly because of its small size. Major problems appear over the Paraguay basin with negative long-term mean of atmospheric moisture convergence PE, which is not physically realistic. The computed precipitation recycling in the LPB (for L = 500 km) exhibits strong seasonal and spatial variations with ratios of 0%–3% during the cold season and 5%–7% during the warm season.

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Kai Tong, Fengge Su, and Chunhong Li

Abstract

In this study, we established a hydrologic modeling framework over the Nam Co Lake basin by linking a glacier-melt scheme with a physically based, distributed land surface hydrologic model, and a heat-balance model was used for water surface evaporation. Hydrologic processes including evapotranspiration from land regions, runoff from both glacierized and nonglacierized areas, and lake surface evaporation were continuously modeled for 1979–2013, and then lake level changes were reconstructed. Rainfall runoff, snowmelt runoff, and glacier runoff contributed 59%, 28%, and 13% of total runoff, respectively. For the high-altitude region, runoff was mostly generated from glaciers. The lake had a positive water budget in most of the years with an average lake level depth of 128.8 mm, resulting in a total rise of approximately 4.5 m. Precipitation and precipitation-induced runoff were the main water supplies and played a dominant role in lake growth. Although the glacier runoff only contributed 13% of the total runoff, it played an important role in controlling the water level. The rising temperature led to increasing evaporation in two ways: one was providing an energy source for evaporation, and the second was extending the ice-free period. This mitigated the recent expansion of the lake, but on the other hand, it led to increasing glacier runoff into the lake. Hence, the rising temperature had two diametrically opposed effects on lake water balance.

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Fengge Su, Yang Hong, and Dennis P. Lettenmaier

Abstract

Satellite-based precipitation estimates with high spatial and temporal resolution and large areal coverage provide a potential alternative source of forcing data for hydrological models in regions where conventional in situ precipitation measurements are not readily available. The La Plata basin in South America provides a good example of a case where the use of satellite-derived precipitation could be beneficial. This study evaluates basinwide precipitation estimates from 9 yr (1998–2006) of Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Multisatellite Precipitation Analysis (TMPA; 3B42 V.6) through comparison with available gauged data and the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) semidistributed hydrology model applied to the La Plata basin. In general, the TMPA estimates agreed well with the gridded gauge data at monthly time scales, most likely because of the monthly adjustment to gauges performed in TMPA. The agreement between TMPA and gauge precipitation estimates was reduced at daily time scales, particularly for high rain rates. The TMPA-driven hydrologic model simulations were able to capture the daily flooding events and to represent low flows, although peak flows tended to be biased upward. There was a good agreement between TMPA-driven simulated flows in terms of their reproduction of seasonal and interannual streamflow variability. This analysis shows that TMPA has potential for hydrologic forecasting in data-sparse regions.

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Fengge Su, Huilin Gao, George J. Huffman, and Dennis P. Lettenmaier

Abstract

The potential utility of the real-time Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Multisatellite Precipitation Analysis real-time product 3B42RT (TMPA-RT) data for streamflow prediction, both through direct comparisons of TMPA-RT estimates with a gridded gauge product and through evaluation of streamflow simulations over four tributaries of La Plata basin (LPB) in South America using the two precipitation products, is investigated. Assessments indicate that the relative accuracy and the hydrologic performance of TMPA-RT-based streamflow simulations generally improved after February 2005. The improvements in TMPA-RT since 2005 are closely related to upgrades in the TMPA-RT algorithm in early February 2005, which include use of additional microwave sensors [Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for Earth Observing System (AMSR-E) and Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit-B (AMSU-B)] and implementation of different calibration schemes. This study suggests considerable potential for hydrologic prediction using purely satellite-derived precipitation estimates (no adjustments by in situ gauges) in parts of the globe where in situ observations are sparse.

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He Sun, Fengge Su, Zhihua He, Tinghai Ou, Deliang Chen, Zhenhua Li, and Yanping Li

Abstract

In this study, two sets of precipitation estimates that are based on the regional Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model—the high Asia refined analysis (HAR) and outputs with a 9-km resolution from WRF (WRF-9km)—are evaluated at both basin and point scales, and their potential hydrological utilities are investigated by driving the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) large-scale land surface hydrological model in seven Third Pole (TP) basins. The regional climate model (RCM) tends to overestimate the gauge-based estimates by 20%–95% in annual means among the selected basins. Relative to the gauge observations, the RCM precipitation estimates can accurately detect daily precipitation events of varying intensities (with absolute bias < 3 mm). The WRF-9km exhibits a high potential for hydrological application in the monsoon-dominated basins in the southeastern TP (with NSE of 0.7–0.9 and bias from −11% to 3%), whereas the HAR performs well in the upper Indus and upper Brahmaputra basins (with NSE of 0.6 and bias from −15% to −9%). Both of the RCM precipitation estimates can accurately capture the magnitudes of low and moderate daily streamflow but show limited capabilities in flood prediction in most of the TP basins. This study provides a comprehensive evaluation of the strength and limitation of RCMs precipitation in hydrological modeling in the TP with complex terrains and sparse gauge observations.

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Qiuhong Tang, Huilin Gao, Pat Yeh, Taikan Oki, Fengge Su, and Dennis P. Lettenmaier

Abstract

Terrestrial water storage (TWS) is a fundamental component of the water cycle. On a regional scale, measurements of terrestrial water storage change (TWSC) are extremely scarce at any time scale. This study investigates the feasibility of estimating monthly-to-seasonal variations of regional TWSC from modeling and a combination of satellite and in situ surface observations based on water balance computations that use ground-based precipitation observations in both cases. The study area is the Klamath and Sacramento River drainage basins in the western United States (total area of about 110 000 km2). The TWSC from the satellite/surface observation–based estimates is compared with model results and land water storage from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) data. The results show that long-term evapotranspiration estimates and runoff measurements generally balance with observed precipitation, suggesting that the evapotranspiration estimates have relatively small bias for long averaging times. Observations show that storage change in water management reservoirs is about 12% of the seasonal amplitude of the TWSC cycle, but it can be up to 30% at the subbasin scale. Comparing with predevelopment conditions, the satellite/surface observation–based estimates show larger evapotranspiration and smaller runoff than do modeling estimates, suggesting extensive anthropogenic alteration of TWSC in the study area. Comparison of satellite/surface observation–based and GRACE TWSC shows that the seasonal cycle of terrestrial water storage is substantially underestimated by GRACE.

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