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Gang Zhao, Huilin Gao, and Lan Cuo

Abstract

A thorough understanding of the peak flows under urbanization and climate change—with the associated uncertainties—is indispensable for mitigating the negative social, economic, and environmental impacts from flooding. In this paper, a case study was conducted by applying the Distributed Hydrology Soil Vegetation Model (DHSVM) to the San Antonio River basin (SARB), Texas. Historical and future land-cover maps were assembled to represent the urbanization process. Future climate and its uncertainties were represented by a series of designed scenarios using the Change Factor (CF) method. The factors were calculated by comparing the model ensemble from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) with baseline historical climatology during two future periods (2020–49, period 1; 2070–99, period 2). It was found that with urban impervious areas increasing alone, annual peak flows may increase from 601 (period 1) to 885 m3 s−1 (period 2). With regard to climate change, annual peak flows driven by forcings from maximum, median, and minimum CFs under four representative concentration pathways (RCPs) were analyzed. While the median values of future annual peak flows—forced by the median CF values—are very similar to the baseline under all RCPs, in each case the uncertainty range (calculated as the difference between annual peak flows driven by the maximum and minimum CFs) is very large. When urbanization and climate change coevolve, these averaged annual peak flows from the four RCPs will increase from 447 (period 1) to 707 m3 s−1 (period 2), with the uncertainties associated with climate change more than 3 times greater than those from urbanization.

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Tian Zhou, Bart Nijssen, Huilin Gao, and Dennis P. Lettenmaier

Abstract

Man-made reservoirs play a key role in the terrestrial water system. They alter water fluxes at the land surface and impact surface water storage through water management regulations for diverse purposes such as irrigation, municipal water supply, hydropower generation, and flood control. Although most developed countries have established sophisticated observing systems for many variables in the land surface water cycle, long-term and consistent records of reservoir storage are much more limited and not always shared. Furthermore, most land surface hydrological models do not represent the effects of water management activities. Here, the contribution of reservoirs to seasonal water storage variations is investigated using a large-scale water management model to simulate the effects of reservoir management at basin and continental scales. The model was run from 1948 to 2010 at a spatial resolution of 0.25° latitude–longitude. A total of 166 of the largest reservoirs in the world with a total capacity of about 3900 km3 (nearly 60% of the globally integrated reservoir capacity) were simulated. The global reservoir storage time series reflects the massive expansion of global reservoir capacity; over 30 000 reservoirs have been constructed during the past half century, with a mean absolute interannual storage variation of 89 km3. The results indicate that the average reservoir-induced seasonal storage variation is nearly 700 km3 or about 10% of the global reservoir storage. For some river basins, such as the Yellow River, seasonal reservoir storage variations can be as large as 72% of combined snow water equivalent and soil moisture storage.

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Huilin Gao, Eric F. Wood, Matthias Drusch, and Matthew F. McCabe

Abstract

Assimilating soil moisture from satellite remote sensing into land surface models (LSMs) has potential for improving model predictions by providing real-time information at large scales. However, the majority of the research demonstrating this potential has been limited to datasets based on either airborne data or synthetic observations. The limited availability of satellite-retrieved soil moisture and the observed qualitative difference between satellite-retrieved and modeled soil moisture has posed challenges in demonstrating the potential over large regions in actual applications. Comparing modeled and satellite-retrieved soil moisture fields shows systematic differences between their mean values and between their dynamic ranges, and these systematic differences vary with satellite sensors, retrieval algorithms, and LSMs. This investigation focuses on generating observation operators for assimilating soil moisture into LSMs using a number of satellite–model combinations. The remotely sensed soil moisture products come from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Microwave Imager (TMI) and the NASA/Earth Observing System (EOS) Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E). The soil moisture model predictions are from the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) hydrological model; the 40-yr European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Re-Analysis (ERA-40); and the NCEP North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR). For this analysis, the satellite and model data are over the southern Great Plains region from 1998 to 2003 (1998–2002 for ERA-40). Previous work on observation operators used the matching of cumulative distributions to transform satellite-retrieved soil moisture into modeled soil moisture, which implied perfect correlations between the ranked values. In this paper, a bivariate statistical approach, based on copula distributions, is employed for representing the joint distribution between retrieved and modeled soil moisture, allowing for a quantitative estimation of the uncertainty in modeled soil moisture when merged with a satellite retrieval. The conditional probability distribution of model-based soil moisture conditioned on a satellite retrieval forms the basis for the soil moisture observation operator. The variance of these conditional distributions for different retrieval algorithms, LSMs, and locations provides an indication of the information content of satellite retrievals in assimilation. Results show that the operators vary by season and by land surface model, with the satellite retrievals providing more information in summer [July–August (JJA)] and fall [September–November (SON)] than winter [December–February (DJF)] or spring [March–May (MAM)] seasons. Also, the results indicate that the value of satellite-retrieved soil moisture is most useful to VIC, followed by ERA-40 and then NARR.

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Do Hyuk Kang, Xiaogang Shi, Huilin Gao, and Stephen J. Déry

Abstract

This paper presents an application of the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) model to the Fraser River basin (FRB) of British Columbia (BC), Canada, over the latter half of the twentieth century. The Fraser River is the longest waterway in BC and supports the world’s most abundant Pacific Ocean salmon populations. Previous modeling and observational studies have demonstrated that the FRB is a snow-dominated system, but with climate change, it may evolve to a pluvial regime. Thus, the goal of this study is to evaluate the changing contribution of snow to the hydrology of the FRB over the latter half of the twentieth century. To this end, a 0.25° atmospheric forcing dataset is used to drive the VIC model from 1949 to 2006 (water years) at a daily time step over a domain covering the entire FRB. A model evaluation is first conducted over 11 major subwatersheds of the FRB to quantitatively assess the spatial variations of snow water equivalent (SWE) and runoff (R). The ratio of the spatially averaged maximum SWE to R (R SR) is used to quantify the contribution of snow to the runoff in the 11 subwatersheds of interest. From 1949 to 2006, R SR exhibits a significant decline in 9 of the 11 subwatersheds (with p < 0.05 according to the Mann–Kendall test statistics). To determine the sensitivity of R SR, the air temperature and precipitation in the forcing dataset are then perturbed. The ratio R SR decreases more significantly, especially during the 1990s and 2000s, when air temperatures have warmed considerably compared to the 1950s. On the other hand, increasing precipitation by a multiplicative factor of 1.1 causes R SR to decrease. As the climate continues to warm, ecological processes and human usage of natural resources in the FRB may be substantially affected by its transition from a snow to a hybrid (nival/pluvial) and even a rain-dominated system.

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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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Guoyong Leng, Maoyi Huang, Qiuhong Tang, Huilin Gao, and L. Ruby Leung

Abstract

Human alteration of the land surface hydrologic cycle is substantial. Recent studies suggest that local water management practices including groundwater pumping and irrigation could significantly alter the quantity and distribution of water in the terrestrial system, with potential impacts on weather and climate through land–atmosphere feedbacks. In this study, the authors incorporated a groundwater withdrawal scheme into the Community Land Model, version 4 (CLM4). To simulate the impact of irrigation realistically, they calibrated the CLM4 simulated irrigation amount against observations from agriculture censuses at the county scale over the conterminous United States. The water used for irrigation was then removed from the surface runoff and groundwater aquifer according to a ratio determined from the county-level agricultural census data. On the basis of the simulations, the impact of groundwater withdrawals for irrigation on land surface and subsurface fluxes were investigated. The results suggest that the impacts of irrigation on latent heat flux and potential recharge when water is withdrawn from surface water alone or from both surface and groundwater are comparable and local to the irrigation areas. However, when water is withdrawn from groundwater for irrigation, greater effects on the subsurface water balance are found, leading to significant depletion of groundwater storage in regions with low recharge rate and high groundwater exploitation rate. The results underscore the importance of local hydrologic feedbacks in governing hydrologic response to anthropogenic change in CLM4 and the need to more realistically simulate the two-way interactions among surface water, groundwater, and atmosphere to better understand the impacts of groundwater pumping on irrigation efficiency and climate.

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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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Huilin Gao, Eric F. Wood, Matthias Drusch, Wade Crow, and Thomas J. Jackson

Abstract

The 1999 Southern Great Plains Hydrology Experiment (SGP99) provides comprehensive datasets for evaluating microwave remote sensing of soil moisture algorithms that involve complex physical properties of soils and vegetation. The Land Surface Microwave Emission Model (LSMEM) is presented and used to retrieve soil moisture from brightness temperatures collected by the airborne Electronically Scanned Thinned Array Radiometer (ESTAR) L-band radiometer. Soil moisture maps for the SGP99 domain are retrieved using LSMEM, surface temperatures computed using the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) land surface model, standard soil datasets, and vegetation parameters estimated through remote sensing. The retrieved soil moisture is validated using field-scale and area-averaged soil moisture collected as part of the SGP99 experiment, and had a rms range for the area-averaged soil moisture of 1.8%–2.8% volumetric soil moisture.

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Bart Nijssen, Shraddhanand Shukla, Chiyu Lin, Huilin Gao, Tian Zhou, Ishottama, Justin Sheffield, Eric F. Wood, and Dennis P. Lettenmaier

Abstract

The implementation of a multimodel drought monitoring system is described, which provides near-real-time estimates of surface moisture storage for the global land areas between 50°S and 50°N with a time lag of about 1 day. Near-real-time forcings are derived from satellite-based precipitation estimates and modeled air temperatures. The system distinguishes itself from other operational systems in that it uses multiple land surface models (Variable Infiltration Capacity, Noah, and Sacramento) to simulate surface moisture storage, which are then combined to derive a multimodel estimate of drought. A comparison of the results with other historic and current drought estimates demonstrates that near-real-time nowcasting of global drought conditions based on satellite and model forcings is entirely feasible. However, challenges remain because hydrological droughts are inherently defined in the context of a long-term climatology. Changes in observing platforms can be misinterpreted as droughts (or as excessively wet periods). This problem cannot simply be addressed through the addition of more observations or through the development of new observing platforms. Instead, it will require careful (re)construction of long-term records that are updated in near–real time in a consistent manner so that changes in surface meteorological forcings reflect actual conditions rather than changes in methods or sources.

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