Assessing Hydrologic Cycle Dynamics Using High-Resolution Satellite Imagery


This study presents an investigation of the hydrologic cycle over a two-decade span (2000 – 2020) using high-resolution satellite products, in-situ measurements, and modeled data. The scope of this work encompasses an examination of the accuracy of satellite-based estimates in calculating the water budget, both on a global scale and within the Mississippi River Basin. The global assessment considers land areas spanning latitudes 90°S to 90°N, while the Mississippi River Basin includes the Lower Mississippi, Arkansas-Red, Missouri, Ohio, and North Central sub-basins. We utilize the IMERG version-6 and PERSIANN precipitation datasets to quantify water inflow over these regions. Correspondingly, water outflow estimates incorporate the GLEAM product for evaporation, G-RUN and ERA5 datasets for runoff, and SMOPS and SMAP estimates for changes in soil moisture. The assessment of water budget changes assesses the difference between Inflow (Precipitation) and Outflow (Runoff, Evaporation, Δ Soil Moisture) components. Our findings reveal discernible discrepancies in the global water budget over an annual cycle, indicating the presence of water “leaks”. These leaks, warranting further investigation, may be attributed to factors such as snow, ice, and groundwater dynamics, which fall outside the scope of this study. On a smaller basin scale, the closure of the water budget is estimated to fall within the combined products’ uncertainty. This provides additional validation for the suspected factors contributing to the global scale “leak.” Analyzing the annual water cycle components, we find the inherent variability and uncertainty associated with satellite-derived products. The study advances comprehension of hydrologic processes and underscores the imperative for enhanced accuracy in satellite-based measurements. Notably, our findings accentuate the importance of a closed water budget as a defining criterion for the accuracy of these satellite-derived products.


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