Estimating the water budget of major US river basins via remote sensing

Huilin Gao, Qiu Hong Tang, Craig R. Ferguson, Eric F. Wood, Dennis P. Lettenmaier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


Nine satellite-based products, each of which provides information about land surface water budget terms, are used to estimate seasonal and annual variations in the water budget of the major river basins of the conterminous USA from 2003 to 2006. The remotely sensed terms are compared with gridded gauge precipitation, and estimates of evapotranspiration (E) and total water storage (TWS) derived from the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) macroscale hydrology model. Among the remote sensing estimates, precipitation has the largest uncertainties. In general, apparent errors for E and TWS show substantial spatial variations, but the consistencies among these remote sensing products are greater than among precipitation products, possibly due in part to similarities in methodology, especially for TWS. Inferred run-off (as a residual of remote sensing estimates of precipitation, E, and TWS) is generally overestimated, due both to excessive precipitation and underestimation of combined E and terrestrial water storage change (TWSC) from remote sensing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3955-3978
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of Remote Sensing
Issue number14
StatePublished - Apr 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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