Water Storage Trends in High Mountain Asia

Abstract

Changes in terrestrial water storage (TWS) in High Mountain Asia (HMA) could have major societal impacts, as the region’s large reservoirs of glaciers, snow, and groundwater provide a freshwater source to more than one billion people. We seek to quantify and close the budget of secular changes in TWS over the span of the GRACE satellite mission (2003-2016). To assess the TWS trend budget we consider a new high-resolution mass trend product determined directly from GRACE L1B data, glacier mass balance derived from Digital Elevation Models (DEMs), groundwater variability determined from confined and unconfined well observations, and terrestrial water budget estimates from a suite of land surface model simulations with the NASA Land Information System (LIS). This effort is successful at closing the aggregated TWS trend budget over the entire HMA region, the glaciated portion of HMA, and the Indus and Ganges basins, where the full-region trends are primarily due to the glacier mass balance and groundwater signals. Additionally, we investigate the closure of TWS trends at individual 1-arc-degree mascons (area $approx$12,000 km$textasciicircum2$); a significant improvement in spatial resolution over previous analyses of GRACE-derived trends. This mascon-level analysis reveals locations where the TWS trends are well-explained by the independent datasets, as well as regions where they are not; identifying specific geographic areas where additional data and model improvements are needed. The accurate characterization of total TWS trends and its components presented here is critical to understanding the complex dynamics of the region, and is a necessary step towards projecting future water mass changes in HMA.

Publication
Frontiers in Earth Science