, Volume 49, Issue 5, pp 483-491

Seasonal water storage change of the Yangtze River basin detected by GRACE

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US-Germany co-sponsered satellite gravimetry mission GRACE (Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment), launched in March 2002, has been producing monthly time series of Earth gravity models up to degree and order of 120. The GRACE mission consists of two identical satellites flying on an almost polar orbit with an altitude of about 300–500 km and satelite-to-satellite ranging of about 220 km. Thanks to the payloads of space-borne GPS receivers, accelerometers and high-precision K-band satelite-to-satellite ranging mesurements, GRACE gravity models are expected to achieve more than one order of magnitude of improvement over previous models at spatial scales of a few hundred kilometers or larger. Recovery of surface mass re-distribution based on GRACE’s time-varying gravity models is applied to studies in solid Earth geophysics, oceanography, climatology and geodesy. At secular time scales, GRACE is expected to provide valuable information on global ice changes, whose variations have profound in fluences on global climate, and in particular, on sea level changes. At seasonal time scales, GRACE is expected to reveal surface water changes with an accuracy of less than 1 cm, or ocean bottom pressure changes with an accuracy of less than 1 mbar (1 mbar = 102 Pa). These surface mass redistribution measurements would improve our understanding of the global and regional mass and energy cycles that are critical to human life. Using 15 GRACE monthly gravity models covering the period from April 2002 to December 2003, this study compares seasonal water storage changes recovered from GRACE data and hydrology models at global and regional scales, with particular focus on the Yangtze River basin of China. Annual amplitude of 3.4 cm of equivalent water height change is found for the Yangtze River basin with maximum in Spring and Autumn, agreeing with two state-of-the-art hydrology models. The differences between GRACE results and model predictions are less than 1–2 cm. We conclude that satellite gravimetry has huge potentials in monitering water storage changes in large river basins such as Yangtze.