Original Article

Journal of Geodesy

, Volume 82, Issue 1, pp 9-13

Annual variations in water storage and precipitation in the Amazon Basin

Bounding sink terms in the terrestrial hydrological balance using GRACE satellite gravity data
  • John W. CrowleyAffiliated withDepartment of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University Email author 
  • , Jerry X. MitrovicaAffiliated withDepartment of Physics, University of Toronto
  • , Richard C. BaileyAffiliated withDepartments of Physics and Geology, University of Toronto
  • , Mark E. TamisieaAffiliated withHarvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
  • , James L. DavisAffiliated withHarvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

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We combine satellite gravity data from the gravity recovery and climate experiment (GRACE) and precipitation measurements from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center’s (CPC) Merged Analysis of Precipitation (CMAP) and the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), over the period from mid-2002 to mid-2006, to investigate the relative importance of sink (runoff and evaporation) and source (precipitation) terms in the hydrological balance of the Amazon Basin. When linear and quadratic terms are removed, the time-series of land water storage variations estimated from GRACE exhibits a dominant annual signal of 250 mm peak-to-peak, which is equivalent to a water volume change of ~1,800 km3. A comparison of this trend with accumulated (i.e., integrated) precipitation shows excellent agreement and no evidence of basin saturation. The agreement indicates that the net runoff and evaporation contributes significantly less than precipitation to the annual hydrological mass balance. Indeed, raw residuals between the de-trended water storage and precipitation anomalies range from ±40  mm. This range is consistent with stream-flow measurements from the region, although the latter are characterized by a stronger annual signal than our residuals, suggesting that runoff and evaporation may act to partially cancel each other.


Gravity recovery and climate experiment (GRACE) Tropical rainfall measuring mission (TRMM) CPC merged analysis of precipitation (CMAP) Hydrological balance Amazon Basin Land water storage