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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, Xiaolan Duan, Deliang Chen, Zhenchun Hao, and Lan Cuo

Abstract

The performance of 24 GCMs available in the fifth phase of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) is evaluated over the eastern Tibetan Plateau (TP) by comparing the model outputs with ground observations for the period 1961–2005. The twenty-first century trends of precipitation and temperature based on the GCMs’ projections over the TP are also analyzed. The results suggest that for temperature most GCMs reasonably capture the climatological patterns and spatial variations of the observed climate. However, the majority of the models have cold biases, with a mean underestimation of 1.1°–2.5°C for the months December–May, and less than 1°C for June–October. For precipitation, the simulations of all models overestimate the observations in climatological annual means by 62.0%–183.0%, and only half of the 24 GCMs are able to reproduce the observed seasonal pattern, which demonstrates a critical need to improve precipitation-related processes in these models. All models produce a warming trend in the twenty-first century under the Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 (rcp8.5) scenario; in contrast, the rcp2.6 scenario predicts a lower average warming rate for the near term, and a small cooling trend in the long-term period with the decreasing radiative forcing. In the near term, the projected precipitation change is about 3.2% higher than the 1961–2005 annual mean, whereas in the long term the precipitation is projected to increase 6.0% under rcp2.6 and 12.0% under the rcp8.5 scenario. Relative to the 1961–2005 mean, the annual temperature is projected to increase by 1.2°–1.3°C in the short term; the warmings under the rcp2.6 and rcp8.5 scenarios are 1.8° and 4.1°C, respectively, for the long term.

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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 based on the regional Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF) –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 of -11% to 3%), while the HAR performs well in the upper Indus (UI) and upper Brahmaputra (UB) basins (with NSE of 0.6 and bias of -15% to -9%). Both 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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Lan Cuo, Yongxin Zhang, Qingchun Wang, Leilei Zhang, Bingrong Zhou, Zhenchun Hao, and Fengge Su

Abstract

Gridded daily precipitation, temperature minima and maxima, and wind speed are generated for the northern Tibetan Plateau (NTP) for 1957–2009 using observations from 81 surface stations. Evaluation reveals reasonable quality and suitability of the gridded data for climate and hydrology analysis. The Mann–Kendall trends of various climate elements of the gridded data show that NTP has in general experienced annually increasing temperature and decreasing wind speed but spatially varied precipitation changes. The northwest (northeast) NTP became dryer (wetter), while there were insignificant changes in precipitation in the south. Snowfall has decreased along high mountain ranges during the wet and warm season. Averaged over the entire NTP, snowfall, temperature minima and maxima, and wind speed experienced statistically significant linear trends at rates of −0.52 mm yr−1 (water equivalent), +0.04°C yr−1, +0.03°C yr−1, and −0.01 m s−1 yr−1, respectively. Correlation between precipitation/wind speed and climate indices characterizing large-scale weather systems for four subregions in NTP reveals that changes in precipitation and wind speed in winter can be attributed to changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), the Arctic Oscillation (AO), the East Asian westerly jet (WJ), and the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) (wind speed only). In summer, the changes in precipitation and wind are only weakly related to these indices. It is speculated that in addition to the NAO, AO, ENSO, WJ, and the East and South Asian summer monsoons, local weather systems also play important roles.

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Lei Wang, Tandong Yao, Chenhao Chai, Lan Cuo, Fengge Su, Fan Zhang, Zhijun Yao, Yinsheng Zhang, Xiuping Li, Jia Qi, Zhidan Hu, Jingshi Liu, and Yuanwei Wang

Abstract

Monitoring changes in river runoff at the Third Pole (TP) is important because rivers in this region support millions of inhabitants in Asia and are very sensitive to climate change. Under the influence of climate change and intensified cryospheric melt, river runoff has changed markedly at the TP, with significant effects on the spatial and temporal water resource distribution that threaten water supply and food security for people living downstream. Despite some in situ observations and discharge estimates from state-of-the-art remote sensing technology, the total river runoff (TRR) for the TP has never been reliably quantified, and its response to climate change remains unclear. As part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ “Pan-Third Pole Environment Study for a Green Silk Road,” the TP-River project aims to construct a comprehensive runoff observation network at mountain outlets (where rivers leave the mountains and enter the plains) for 13 major rivers in the TP region, thereby enabling TRR to be accurately quantified. The project also integrates discharge estimates from remote sensing and cryosphere–hydrology modeling to investigate long-term changes in TRR and the relationship between the TRR variations and westerly/monsoon. Based on recent efforts, the project provides the first estimate (656 ± 23 billion m3) of annual TRR for the 13 TP rivers in 2018. The annual river runoff at the mountain outlets varies widely between the different TP rivers, ranging from 2 to 176 billion m3, with higher values mainly corresponding to rivers in the Indian monsoon domain, rather than in the westerly domain.

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