Global Reconstruction of Naturalized River Flows at 2.94 Million Reaches

Peirong Lin, Ming Pan, Hylke E. Beck, Yuan Yang, Dai Yamazaki, Renato Frasson, Cédric H. David, Michael Durand, Tamlin M. Pavelsky, George H. Allen, Colin J. Gleason, Eric F. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

177 Scopus citations


Spatiotemporally continuous global river discharge estimates across the full spectrum of stream orders are vital to a range of hydrologic applications, yet they remain poorly constrained. Here we present a carefully designed modeling effort (Variable Infiltration Capacity land surface model and Routing Application for Parallel computatIon of Discharge river routing model) to estimate global river discharge at very high resolutions. The precipitation forcing is from a recently published 0.1° global product that optimally merged gauge-, reanalysis-, and satellite-based data. To constrain runoff simulations, we use a set of machine learning-derived, global runoff characteristics maps (i.e., runoff at various exceedance probability percentiles) for grid-by-grid model calibration and bias correction. To support spaceborne discharge studies, the river flowlines are defined at their true geometry and location as much as possible—approximately 2.94 million vector flowlines (median length 6.8 km) and unit catchments are derived from a high-accuracy global digital elevation model at 3-arcsec resolution (~90 m), which serves as the underlying hydrography for river routing. Our 35-year daily and monthly model simulations are evaluated against over 14,000 gauges globally. Among them, 35% (64%) have a percentage bias within ±20% (±50%), and 29% (62%) have a monthly Kling-Gupta Efficiency ≥0.6 (0.2), showing data robustness at the scale the model is assessed. This reconstructed discharge record can be used as a priori information for the Surface Water and Ocean Topography satellite mission's discharge product, thus named “Global Reach-level A priori Discharge Estimates for Surface Water and Ocean Topography”. It can also be used in other hydrologic applications requiring spatially explicit estimates of global river flows.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6499-6516
Number of pages18
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology


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