Changes in terrestrial water storage versus rainfall and discharges in the Amazon basin

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Abstract

This study examines how the interannual variability of rainfall impacts the land water storage in the Amazon basin during the 2003–2010 time span at monthly time-scale using respectively, Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) and Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite observations. Monthly estimates of GRACE-based terrestrial water storage (TWS) are compared to (1) TRMM rainfall, (2) in situ discharges at the outlet of the major sub-basins of the Amazon over 2003–2010 to characterize the redistribution of precipitation on land water. The time-variations of land water storage derived from GRACE are consistent with those of rainfall and discharges at basin and sub-basin scales even at interannual time-scales (correlation generally greater than 0.7). The study of the relationship between these two quantities reveals large differences in terms of rainfall amount, water storage, time delays, resulting of the water transport among the sub-basins of the Amazon. The analysis of GRACE data has enabled identification of the signature of the recent extreme climatic events (droughts of 2005 and 2010, flood of 2009) on the land water storage, in terms of spatial patterns and intensity. These results are in good agreement with what was observed on independent datasets (water levels and discharges, vegetation activity, forest fires, and drought index), highlighting the interest of gravimetry from space missions for the characterization of the interannual variability of the TWS. GRACE data offer the unique opportunity to monitor the hydrological cycle in ungauged basins where reliable observations of rainfall and discharges are missing.

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