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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Global terrestrial water storage capacity and flood potential using GRACE


Terrestrial water storage anomaly from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) and precipitation observations from the Global Precipitation Climatology Project (GPCP) are applied at the regional scale to show the usefulness of a remotely sensed, storage-based flood potential method. Over the GRACE record length, instances of repeated maxima in water storage anomaly that fall short of variable maxima in cumulative precipitation suggest an effective storage capacity for a given region, beyond which additional precipitation must be met by marked increases in runoff or evaporation. These saturation periods indicate the possible transition to a flood-prone situation. To investigate spatially and temporally variable storage overflow, a monthly storage deficit variable is created and a global map of effective storage capacity is presented for possible use in land surface models. To highlight a flood-potential application, we design a monthly global flood index and compare with Dartmouth Flood Observatory flood maps.

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