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Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) detection of water storage changes in the Three Gorges Reservoir of China and comparison with in situ measurements

  • Author(s): Wang, Xianwei
  • de Linage, Caroline
  • Famiglietti, James
  • Zender, Charles S
  • et al.
Abstract

Water impoundment in the Three Gorges Reservoir (TGR) of China caused a large mass redistribution from the oceans to a concentrated land area in a short time period. We show that this mass shift is captured by the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) unconstrained global solutions at a 400 km spatial resolution after removing correlated errors. The WaterGAP Global Hydrology Model (WGHM) is selected to isolate the TGR contribution from regional water storage changes. For the first time, this study compares the GRACE (minus WGHM) estimated TGR volume changes with in situ measurements from April 2002 to May 2010 at a monthly time scale. During the 8 year study period, GRACE-WGHM estimated TGR volume changes show an increasing trend consistent with the TGR in situ measurements and lead to similar estimates of impounded water volume. GRACE-WGHM estimated total volume increase agrees to within 14% (3.2 km(3)) of the in situ measurements. This indicates that GRACE can retrieve the true amplitudes of large surface water storage changes in a concentrated area that is much smaller than the spatial resolution of its global harmonic solutions. The GRACE-WGHM estimated TGR monthly volume changes explain 76% (r(2) = 0.76) of in situ measurement monthly variability and have an uncertainty of 4.62 km(3). Our results also indicate reservoir leakage and groundwater recharge due to TGR filling and contamination from neighboring lakes are nonnegligible in the GRACE total water storage changes. Moreover, GRACE observations could provide a relatively accurate estimate of global water volume withheld by newly constructed large reservoirs and their impacts on global sea level rise since 2002.

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