Surveys in Geophysics

, Volume 29, Issue 4–5, pp 375–397 | Cite as

Improvement of Global Hydrological Models Using GRACE Data

Original Paper


After about 6 years of GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) satellite mission operation, an unprecedented global data set on the spatio-temporal variations of the Earth’s water storage is available. The data allow for a better understanding of the water cycle at the global scale and for large river basins. This review summarizes the experiences that have been made when comparing GRACE data with simulation results of global hydrological models and it points out the prerequisites and perspectives for model improvements by combination with GRACE data. When evaluated qualitatively at the global scale, water storage variations on the continents from GRACE agreed reasonably well with model predictions in terms of their general seasonal dynamics and continental-scale spatial patterns. Differences in amplitudes and phases of water storage dynamics revealed in more detailed analyses were mainly attributed to deficiencies in the meteorological model forcing data, to missing water storage compartments in the model, but also to limitations and errors of the GRACE data. Studies that transformed previously identified model deficiencies into adequate modifications of the model structure or parameters are still rare. Prerequisites for a comprehensive improvement of large-scale hydrological models are in particular the consistency of GRACE observation and model variables in terms of filtering, reliable error estimates, and a full assessment of the water balance. Using improvements in GRACE processing techniques, complementary observation data, multi-model evaluations and advanced methods of multi-objective calibration and data assimilation, considerable progress in large-scale hydrological modelling by integration of GRACE data can be expected.


Satellite mission Time-variable gravity Continental water storage Global water cycle Water balance Hydrological model Land surface model Data assimilation Multi-objective validation 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.GFZ German Research Centre for GeosciencesPotsdamGermany

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