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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Using Sentinel-1 and GRACE satellite data to monitor the hydrological variations within the Tulare Basin, California.


Subsidence induced by groundwater depletion is a grave problem in many regions around the world, leading to a permanent loss of groundwater storage within an aquifer and even producing structural damage at the Earth's surface. California's Tulare Basin is no exception, experiencing about a meter of subsidence between 2015 and 2020. However, understanding the relationship between changes in groundwater volumes and ground deformation has proven difficult. We employ surface displacement measurements from Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) and gravimetric estimates of terrestrial water storage from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite pair to characterize the hydrological dynamics within the Tulare basin. The removal of the long-term aquifer compaction from the InSAR time series reveals coherent short-term variations that correlate with hydrological features. For example, in the winter of 2018-2019 uplift is observed at the confluence of several rivers and streams that drain into the southeastern edge of the basin. These observations, combined with estimates of mass changes obtained from the orbiting GRACE satellites, form the basis for imaging the monthly spatial variations in water volumes. This approach facilitates the quick and effective synthesis of InSAR and gravimetric datasets and will aid efforts to improve our understanding and management of groundwater resources around the world.

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