Closing the terrestrial water budget from satellite remote sensing

Justin Sheffield, Craig R. Ferguson, Tara J. Troy, Eric F. Wood, Matthew F. McCabe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

196 Scopus citations


[1] The increasing availability of remote sensing products for all components of the terrestrial water cycle makes it now possible to evaluate the potential of water balance closure purely from remote sensing sources. We take precipitation (P) from the TMPA and CMORPH products, a Penman-Monteith based evapotranspiration (E) estimate derived from NASA Aqua satellite data and terrestrial water storage change (ΔS) from the GRACE satellite. Their combined ability to close the water budget is evaluated over the Mississippi River basin for 2003-5 by estimating streamflow (Q) as a residual of the water budget and comparing to streamfiow measurements. We find that Q is greatly overestimated due mainly to the high bias in P, especially in the summer. Removal of systematic biases in P reduces the error significantly. However, uncertainties in the individual budget components due to simplifications in process algorithms and input data error are generally larger than the measured streamfiow.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL07403
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 16 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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