Articles | Volume 16, issue 10
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 3889–3908, 2012
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 3889–3908, 2012

Research article 30 Oct 2012

Research article | 30 Oct 2012

A simple groundwater scheme in the TRIP river routing model: global off-line evaluation against GRACE terrestrial water storage estimates and observed river discharges

J.-P. Vergnes and B. Decharme J.-P. Vergnes and B. Decharme
  • Groupe d'étude de l'atmosphère météorologique (GAME), URA1357, CNRS – Météo France, Toulouse, France

Abstract. Groundwater is a non-negligible component of the global hydrological cycle, and its interaction with overlying unsaturated zones can influence water and energy fluxes between the land surface and the atmosphere. Despite its importance, groundwater is not yet represented in most climate models. In this paper, the simple groundwater scheme implemented in the Total Runoff Integrating Pathways (TRIP) river routing model is applied in off-line mode at global scale using a 0.5° model resolution. The simulated river discharges are evaluated against a large dataset of about 3500 gauging stations compiled from the Global Data Runoff Center (GRDC) and other sources, while the terrestrial water storage (TWS) variations derived from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission help to evaluate the simulated TWS. The forcing fields (surface runoff and deep drainage) come from an independent simulation of the Interactions between Soil-Biosphere-Atmosphere (ISBA) land surface model covering the period from 1950 to 2008. Results show that groundwater improves the efficiency scores for about 70% of the gauging stations and deteriorates them for 15%. The simulated TWS are also in better agreement with the GRACE estimates. These results are mainly explained by the lag introduced by the low-frequency variations of groundwater, which tend to shift and smooth the simulated river discharges and TWS. A sensitivity study on the global precipitation forcing used in ISBA to produce the forcing fields is also proposed. It shows that the groundwater scheme is not influenced by the uncertainties in precipitation data.