Estimating the water budget of major U.S. river basins via remote sensing


Gao, H., Tang, Q., Ferguson, C.R., Wood, E.F., Lettenmaier, D.P. 2012. To appear in International Journal of Remote Sensing.


Nine satellite-based products, each of which provides information about land surface water budget terms, are used to estimate seasonal and annual variations in the water budget of the major river basins of the conterminous United States from 2003 to 2006. The remotely sensed terms are compared with gridded gauge precipitation, and estimates of evapotranspiration (ET) and total water storage (TWS) derived from the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) macroscale hydrology model. Among the remote sensing estimates, precipitation has the largest uncertainties. In general, apparent errors for ET and TWS show substantial spatial variations, but the consistencies among these remote sensing products are greater than among precipitation products, possibly due in part to similarities in methodology, especially for TWS. Inferred runoff (as a residual of remote sensing estimates of precipitation, ET, and TWS) is generally overestimated, due both to excessive precipitation and underestimation of combined ET and terrestrial water storage change (TWSC) from remote sensing.