Multisource estimation of long-term terrestrial water budget for major global river basins

Ming Pan, Alok K. Sahoo, Tara J. Troy, Raghuveer K. Vinukollu, Justin Sheffield, Eric F. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

171 Scopus citations


A systematic method is proposed to optimally combine estimates of the terrestrial water budget from different data sources and to enforce the water balance constraint using data assimilation techniques. The method is applied to create global long-term records of the terrestrial water budget by merging a number of global datasets including in situ observations, remote sensing retrievals, land surface model simulations, and global reanalyses. The estimation process has three steps. First, a conventional analysis on the errors and biases in different data sources is conducted based on existing validation/error studies and other information such as sensor network density, model physics, and calibration procedures. Then, the data merging process combines different estimates so that biases and errors from different data sources can be compensated to the greatest extent and the merged estimates have the best possible confidence. Finally, water balance errors are resolved using the constrained Kalman filter technique. The procedure is applied to 32 globally distributed major basins for 1984-2006. The authors believe that the resulting global water budget estimates can be used as a baseline dataset for large-scale diagnostic studies, for example, integrated assessment of basin water resources, trend analysis and attribution, and climate change studies. The global scale of the analysis presents significant challenges in carrying out the error analysis for each water budget variable. For some variables (e.g., evapotranspiration) the assumptions underpinning the error analysis lack supporting quantitative analysis and, thus, may not hold for specific locations. Nevertheless, the merging and water balance constraining technique can be applied to many problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3191-3206
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


  • Climate variability
  • Error analysis
  • Hydrologic cycle
  • Kalman filters
  • Water budget


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