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Remote Sens. 2015, 7(1), 1021-1047; doi:10.3390/rs70101021

GRACE Gravity Satellite Observations of Terrestrial Water Storage Changes for Drought Characterization in the Arid Land of Northwestern China

1
Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou, 730000, China
2
University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Arnon Karnieli, Richard Gloaguen and Prasad S. Thenkabail
Received: 11 June 2014 / Accepted: 12 January 2015 / Published: 16 January 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing of Land Degradation in Drylands)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [12955 KB, uploaded 19 January 2015]   |  

Abstract

Drought is a complex natural hazard which can have negative effects on agriculture, economy, and human life. In this paper, the primary goal is to explore the application of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) gravity satellite data for the quantitative investigation of the recent drought dynamic over the arid land of northwestern China, a region with scarce hydrological and meteorological observation datasets. The spatiotemporal characteristics of terrestrial water storage changes (TWSC) were first evaluated based on the GRACE satellite data, and then validated against hydrological model simulations and precipitation data. A drought index, the total storage deficit index (TSDI), was derived on the basis of GRACE-recovered TWSC. The spatiotemporal distributions of drought events from 2003 to 2012 in the study region were obtained using the GRACE-derived TSDI. Results derived from TSDI time series indicated that, apart from four short-term (three months) drought events, the study region experienced a severe long-term drought from May 2008 to December 2009. As shown in the spatial distribution of TSDI-derived drought conditions, this long-term drought mainly concentrated in the northwestern area of the entire region, where the terrestrial water storage was in heavy deficit. These drought characteristics, which were detected by TSDI, were consistent with local news reports and other researchers’ results. Furthermore, a comparison between TSDI and Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) implied that GRACE TSDI was a more reliable integrated drought indicator (monitoring agricultural and hydrological drought) in terms of considering total terrestrial water storages for large regions. The GRACE-derived TSDI can therefore be used to characterize and monitor large-scale droughts in the arid regions, being of special value for areas with scarce observations. View Full-Text
Keywords: GRACE gravity satellite; terrestrial water storage; TSDI; drought; arid region GRACE gravity satellite; terrestrial water storage; TSDI; drought; arid region
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Cao, Y.; Nan, Z.; Cheng, G. GRACE Gravity Satellite Observations of Terrestrial Water Storage Changes for Drought Characterization in the Arid Land of Northwestern China. Remote Sens. 2015, 7, 1021-1047.

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