Land water storage within the Congo Basin inferred from GRACE satellite gravity data

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Abstract

[1] GRACE satellite gravity data is used to estimate terrestrial (surface plus ground) water storage within the Congo Basin in Africa for the period of April, 2002–May, 2006. These estimates exhibit significant seasonal (30 ± 6 mm of equivalent water thickness) and long-term trends, the latter yielding a total loss of ∼280 km3 of water over the 50-month span of data. We also combine GRACE and precipitation data sets (CMAP, TRMM) to explore the relative contributions of the source term to the seasonal hydrological balance within the Congo Basin. We find that the seasonal water storage tends to saturate for anomalies greater than 30–40 mm of equivalent water thickness. Furthermore, precipitation contributed roughly three times the peak water storage after anomalously rainy seasons, in early 2003 and 2005, implying a ∼60–70% loss from runoff and evapotranspiration. Finally, a comparison of residual land water storage (monthly estimates minus best-fitting trends) in the Congo and Amazon Basins shows an anti-correlation, in agreement with the “see-saw” variability inferred by others from runoff data.

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