Water Resources Research

GRACE Hydrological estimates for small basins: Evaluating processing approaches on the High Plains Aquifer, USA

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Abstract

[1] The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites provide observations of water storage variation at regional scales. However, when focusing on a region of interest, limited spatial resolution and noise contamination can cause estimation bias and spatial leakage, problems that are exacerbated as the region of interest approaches the GRACE resolution limit of a few hundred km. Reliable estimates of water storage variations in small basins require compromises between competing needs for noise suppression and spatial resolution. The objective of this study was to quantitatively investigate processing methods and their impacts on bias, leakage, GRACE noise reduction, and estimated total error, allowing solution of the trade-offs. Among the methods tested is a recently developed concentration algorithm called spatiospectral localization, which optimizes the basin shape description, taking into account limited spatial resolution. This method is particularly suited to retrieval of basin-scale water storage variations and is effective for small basins. To increase confidence in derived methods, water storage variations were calculated for both CSR (Center for Space Research) and GRGS (Groupe de Recherche de Géodésie Spatiale) GRACE products, which employ different processing strategies. The processing techniques were tested on the intensively monitored High Plains Aquifer (450,000 km2 area), where application of the appropriate optimal processing method allowed retrieval of water storage variations over a portion of the aquifer as small as ∼200,000 km2.

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