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Sean Swenson and John Wahr

Abstract

Currently, observations of key components of the earth's large-scale water and energy budgets are sparse or even nonexistent. One key component, precipitation minus evapotranspiration (P − ET), remains largely unmeasured due to the absence of observations of ET. Precipitation minus evapotranspiration describes the flux of water between the atmosphere and the earth's surface, and therefore provides important information regarding the interaction of the atmosphere with the land surface. In this paper, large-scale changes in continental water storage derived from satellite gravity data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) project are combined with river discharge data to obtain estimates of areally averaged P − ET.

After constructing an equation describing the large-scale terrestrial water balance reflecting the temporal sampling of GRACE water storage estimates, GRACE-derived P − ET estimates are compared to those obtained from a reanalysis dataset [NCEP/Department of Energy (DOE) reanalysis-2] and a land surface model driven with observation-based forcing [Global Land Data Assimilation System (GLDAS)/Noah] for two large U.S. river basins. GRACE-derived P − ET compares quite favorably with the reanalysis-2 output, while P − ET from the Noah model shows significant differences. Because the uncertainties in the GRACE results can be computed rigorously, this comparison may be considered as a validation of the models.

In addition to showing how GRACE P − ET estimates may be used to validate model output, the accuracy of GRACE estimates of both the seasonal cycle and the monthly averaged rate of P − ET is examined. Finally, the potential for estimating seasonal evapotranspiration is demonstrated by combining GRACE seasonal P − ET estimates with independent estimates of the seasonal cycle of precipitation.

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Eric W. Leuliette and John M. Wahr

Abstract

Though thermal effects dominate steric changes in sea level, the long-period contribution of thermal expansion to sea level is uncertain. Nerem et al. found that a global map of sea surface temperature (SST) trends and a corresponding map of TOPEX/Poseidon-derived sea surface height (SSH) trends were strongly correlated. This result is explored with a coupled pattern analysis (CPA) between five years of global SST and SSH, which allows for matching of modes of common temporal variability.

The dominant mode found is an annual cycle that accounts for nearly all (95.3%) of the covariance between the fields and has a strong SST/SSH spatial correlation (0.68). The spatial correlation is strong in both the Atlantic (0.80) and the Pacific (0.70). Good temporal and spatial agreement between the SSH and SST fields for the primary seasonal mode suggests that a robust regression between fields may have some physical significance with respect to thermal expansion and that the regression coefficient might be a proxy for the mixing depth of the mode. The value of the regression coefficient, H, scaled by a thermal expansion coefficient of 2 × 10−4 °C−1 is 40 m for this mode, and ranges from 33 to 47 m among the basins.

The primary mode of a nonseasonal CPA is an interannual mode that captures 38.0% of the covariance and has significant spatial correlations (0.54) between SSH and SST spatial patterns. The spatial pattern and temporal coefficients of this mode are correlated with ENSO events. A robust regression between fields finds that the nonseasonal modes have a regression coefficient 2–4 times that of the seasonal modes, indicative of deeper thermal mixing. The secondary nonseasonal mode captures most of the secular trend in both fields during the period examined. The temporal coefficients of this mode lag those of primary mode. Evidence is presented that this mode is consistent with the behavior expected from secular trends that are dominantly forced by thermal expansion.

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John M. Wahr and Abraham H. Oort

Abstract

Seasonal, zonal surface torques between the atmosphere and the earth are estimated and compared, using data from a number of independent sources. The mountain torque is computed both from surface pressure data and from isobaric height data. The friction torque is estimated from the oceanic stress data of Hellerman and Rosenstein. Results for the total torque are inferred from atmospheric angular momentum data. Finally, the globally integrated total torque is compared with astronomical observations of the earth's rotation rate. These comparisons help us to assess the quality of the different results.

Zonal torques are also computed using results from a GFDL general circulation model of the atmosphere. A comparison with the corresponding results inferred from real data is presented and interpreted in terms of model accuracy.

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Victor Zlotnicki, John Wahr, Ichiro Fukumori, and Yuhe T. Song

Abstract

Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) gravity data spanning January 2003–November 2005 are used as proxies for ocean bottom pressure (BP) averaged over 1 month, spherical Gaussian caps 500 km in radius, and along paths bracketing the Antarctic Circumpolar Current’s various fronts. The GRACE BP signals are compared with those derived from the Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean (ECCO) ocean modeling–assimilation system, and to a non-Boussinesq version of the Regional Ocean Model System (ROMS). The discrepancy found between GRACE and the models is 1.7 cmH2O (1 cmH2O ∼ 1 hPa), slightly lower than the 1.9 cmH2O estimated by the authors independently from propagation of GRACE errors. The northern signals are weak and uncorrelated among basins. The southern signals are strong, with a common seasonality. The seasonal cycle GRACE data observed in the Pacific and Indian Ocean sectors of the ACC are consistent, with annual and semiannual amplitudes of 3.6 and 0.6 cmH2O (1.1 and 0.6 cmH2O with ECCO), the average over the full southern path peaks (stronger ACC) in the southern winter, on days of year 197 and 97 for the annual and semiannual components, respectively; the Atlantic Ocean annual peak is 20 days earlier. An approximate conversion factor of 3.1 Sv (Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) of barotropic transport variability per cmH2O of BP change is estimated. Wind stress data time series from the Quick Scatterometer (QuikSCAT), averaged monthly, zonally, and over the latitude band 40°–65°S, are also constructed and subsampled at the same months as with the GRACE data. The annual and semiannual harmonics of the wind stress peak on days 198 and 82, respectively. A decreasing trend over the 3 yr is observed in the three data types.

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