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https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-664
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-664
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 06 Feb 2020

Submitted as: research article | 06 Feb 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Assessing global water mass transfers from continents to oceans over the period 1948–2016

Denise Cáceres1, Ben Marzeion2, Jan Hendrik Malles2, Benjamin Gutknecht3, Hannes Müller Schmied1,4, and Petra Döll1,4 Denise Cáceres et al.
  • 1Institute of Physical Geography, Goethe University Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
  • 2Institute of Geography and MARUM, University of Bremen, Germany
  • 3Institut für Planetare Geodäsie, Technische Universität Dresden, Germany
  • 4Senckenberg Leibniz Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre Frankfurt (SBiK-F), Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Abstract. Continental water mass change affects ocean mass change (OMC). Assessing the net contribution, however, remains a challenge. We present an integrated version of the WaterGAP global hydrological model that is able to simulate total continental water storage anomalies (TWSA) over the global continental area (except Greenland and Antarctica) consistently by integrating the output from the global glacier model of Marzeion et al. (2012) as an input to WaterGAP. Monthly time series of global mean TWSA obtained with an ensemble of four variants of the integrated model, corresponding to different precipitation input and irrigation water use assumptions, were validated against an ensemble of four TWSA solutions based on GRACE satellite gravimetry over January 2003 to August 2016. The overall fit to GRACE, measured by the Nash–Sutcliffe efficiency (NSE) coefficient, was found to be 0.87. By decomposing the original TWSA signal into its seasonal, linear trend and inter-annual components, we find that the seasonal amplitude and phase are very well reproduced (NSE = 0.88), the linear trend is overestimated by 30–50 % (NSE = 0.65) and inter-annual variability is captured to a certain extent (NSE = 0.57) by the integrated model. During the period 1948–2016, we find that continents lost 34–41 mm of sea level equivalent (SLE) to the oceans, with global glacier mass loss accounting for 81 % of the cumulated mass loss and glacier-free land water storage anomalies (LWSA) accounting for the remaining 19 %. Over 1948–2016, the mass gain on land from impoundment of water in man-made reservoirs, equivalent to 8 mm SLE, was offset by the mass loss from water abstractions, amounting to 15–21 mm SLE and reflecting a cumulated groundwater depletion of 13–19 mm SLE. Climate-driven LWSA are highly sensitive to precipitation input and correlate with El Niño Southern Oscillation multi-year modulations. Significant uncertainty remains in trends of modelled LWSA, which are highly sensitive to simulation of irrigation water use and man-made reservoirs.

Denise Cáceres et al.

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Denise Cáceres et al.

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Short summary
We analyzed how and to which extent changes in water storage on continents had an effect on global ocean mass over the period 1948–2016. Continents lost water to oceans at an accelerated rate, inducing sea-level rise. Shrinking glaciers explain 81 % of the long-term continental water mass loss, while declining groundwater levels, mainly due to sustained groundwater pumping for irrigation, is the second major driver. This long-term decline was partly offset by the impoundment of water in dams.
We analyzed how and to which extent changes in water storage on continents had an effect on...
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