Identifying water mass depletion in northern Iraq observed by GRACE
- 1Delft University of Technology, Delft, the Netherlands
- 2University of Sulaimani, Department of Geology, Sulaymaniyah, Iraq
Abstract. Observations acquired by Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission indicate a mass loss of 146 ± 6 mm equivalent water height (EWH) in northern Iraq between 2007 and 2009. These data are used as an independent validation of lake mass variations and a rainfall-runoff model, which is based on local geology and climate conditions. Model inputs are precipitation from Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission (TRMM) observations, and climatic parameters from Global Land Data Assimilation Systems (GLDAS) model parameters. The model is calibrated with observed river discharge and includes a representation of the karstified aquifers in the region to improve model realism. Lake mass variations were derived from Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) in combination with satellite altimetry and some in situ data. Our rainfall–runoff model confirms that northern Iraq suffered a drought between 2007 and 2009 and captures the annual cycle and longer trend of the observed GRACE data. The total mass depletion seen by GRACE between 2007 and 2009 is mainly explained by a lake mass depletion of 75 ± 3 mm EWH and a natural groundwater depletion of 39 ± 8 mm EWH. Our findings indicate that anthropogenic groundwater extraction has a minor influence in this region, while a decline in lake mass and natural depletion of groundwater play a key role.