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Remote Sens. 2017, 9(12), 1287;

Using GRACE Satellite Gravimetry for Assessing Large-Scale Hydrologic Extremes

Bureau of Economic Geology, Jackson School of Geosciences, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697, USA
State Key Laboratory of Geodesy and Earth’s Dynamics, Institute of Geodesy and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan 430077, China
University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 1 October 2017 / Revised: 30 November 2017 / Accepted: 7 December 2017 / Published: 11 December 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing of Groundwater from River Basin to Global Scales)
PDF [4986 KB, uploaded 11 December 2017]


Global assessment of the spatiotemporal variability in terrestrial total water storage anomalies (TWSA) in response to hydrologic extremes is critical for water resources management. Using TWSA derived from the gravity recovery and climate experiment (GRACE) satellites, this study systematically assessed the skill of the TWSA-climatology (TC) approach and breakpoint (BP) detection method for identifying large-scale hydrologic extremes. The TC approach calculates standardized anomalies by using the mean and standard deviation of the GRACE TWSA corresponding to each month. In the BP detection method, the empirical mode decomposition (EMD) is first applied to identify the mean return period of TWSA extremes, and then a statistical procedure is used to identify the actual occurrence times of abrupt changes (i.e., BPs) in TWSA. Both detection methods were demonstrated on basin-averaged TWSA time series for the world’s 35 largest river basins. A nonlinear event coincidence analysis measure was applied to cross-examine abrupt changes detected by these methods with those detected by the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI). Results show that our EMD-assisted BP procedure is a promising tool for identifying hydrologic extremes using GRACE TWSA data. Abrupt changes detected by the BP method coincide well with those of the SPI anomalies and with documented hydrologic extreme events. Event timings obtained by the TC method were ambiguous for a number of river basins studied, probably because the GRACE data length is too short to derive long-term climatology at this time. The BP approach demonstrates a robust wet-dry anomaly detection capability, which will be important for applications with the upcoming GRACE Follow-On mission. View Full-Text
Keywords: satellite gravimetry; GRACE; hydrologic extreme; drought; flood; anomaly detection; empirical mode decomposition; total water storage; water storage deficits satellite gravimetry; GRACE; hydrologic extreme; drought; flood; anomaly detection; empirical mode decomposition; total water storage; water storage deficits

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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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Sun, A.Y.; Scanlon, B.R.; AghaKouchak, A.; Zhang, Z. Using GRACE Satellite Gravimetry for Assessing Large-Scale Hydrologic Extremes. Remote Sens. 2017, 9, 1287.

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