Articles | Volume 15, issue 8
Research article
24 Aug 2011
Research article |  | 24 Aug 2011

Spatial and temporal connections in groundwater contribution to evaporation

A. Lam, D. Karssenberg, B. J. J. M. van den Hurk, and M. F. P. Bierkens

Abstract. In climate models, lateral terrestrial water fluxes are usually neglected. We estimated the contribution of vertical and lateral groundwater fluxes to the land surface water budget at a subcontinental scale, by modeling convergence of groundwater and surfacewater fluxes. We present a hydrological model of the entire Danube Basin at 5 km resolution, and use it to show the importance of groundwater for the surface climate.

Results show that the contribution of groundwater to evaporation is significant, and can locally be higher than 30 % in summer. We demonstrate through the same model that this contribution also has important temporal characteristics. A wet episode can influence groundwater contribution to summer evaporation for several years afterwards. This indicates that modeling groundwater flow has the potential to augment the multi-year memory of climate models. We also show that the groundwater contribution to evaporation is local by presenting the groundwater travel times and the magnitude of groundwater convergence. Throughout the Danube Basin the lateral fluxes of groundwater are negligible when modeling at this scale and resolution. This suggests that groundwater can be adequately added in land surface models by including a lower closed groundwater reservoir of sufficient size with two-way interaction with surface water and the overlying soil layers.