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The potential for satellite-based monitoring of groundwater storage changes using GRACE: the High Plains aquifer, Central US


Groundwater storage in the High Plains aquifer has been steadily decreasing for 50 or more years due to withdrawals for irrigation. This trend has been documented in annually published United States Geological Survey reports of water level changes in the High Plains aquifer, but assessments of groundwater storage changes in other parts of the world are incomplete. NASA's gravity recovery and climate experiment (GRACE) soon may provide an alternative means for monitoring groundwater changes, via satellite remote sensing. That terrestrial water storage changes are likely to be detectable by GRACE satellites has been demonstrated by prior studies. This investigation builds on those studies by evaluating the potential for isolating changes in the groundwater component of terrestrial water storage. In the High Plains, the magnitude of annual groundwater storage changes averaged 19.8 mm between 1987 and 1998. Uncertainty in deriving estimates of High Plains aquifer storage changes from GRACE observations will arise mainly from the removal, via land surface modeling, of the effects of soil moisture changes from the gravity signal. Total uncertainty is predicted to be about 8.7 mm. © 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

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