10 Jan 2022

10 Jan 2022

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Influence of low-frequency variability on high and low groundwater levels: example of aquifers in Paris Basin

Lisa Baulon1,2, Nicolas Massei1, Delphine Allier2, Matthieu Fournier1, and Hélène Bessiere2 Lisa Baulon et al.
  • 1Normandie Univ, UNIROUEN, UNICAEAN, CNRS, M2C, 76000 Rouen, France
  • 2BRGM, 3 av. C. Guillemin, 45060 Orleans Cedex 02, France

Abstract. Groundwater levels (GWL) very often fluctuate over a wide range of timescales (infra-annual, annual, multi-annual, decadal). In many instances, aquifers act as low-pass filters, dampening the high-frequency variability and amplifying low-frequency variations (from multi-annual to decadal timescales) which basically originate from large-scale climate variability. In the aim of better understanding and ultimately anticipating groundwater droughts and floods, it appears crucial to evaluate whether (and how much) the very high or very low GWLs are sensitive to such low-frequency variability (LFV), which was the main objective of the study presented here. As an example, we focused on exceedance and non-exceedance of the 80 % and 20 % GWL percentiles respectively, in the Paris Basin aquifers over the 1976–2019 period. GWL time series were extracted from a database consisting of relatively undisturbed GWL time series regarding anthropogenic influence (water abstraction by either continuous or periodic pumping) over Metropolitan France. Based on this dataset, our approach consisted of exploring the effect of GWL low-frequency components on threshold exceedance and non-exceedance by successively filtering out low-frequency components of GWL signals using maximum overlap discrete wavelet transform (MODWT). Multi-annual (~7-yr) and decadal (~17-yr) variabilities were found to be the predominant LFVs in GWL signals, in accordance with previous studies in the northern France area. Filtering out these components (either independently or jointly) to (i) examine the proportion of high level (HL) and low level (LL) occurrences generated by these variabilities, (ii) estimate the contribution of each of these variabilities in explaining the occurrence of major historical events associated to well-recognized societal impacts.

A typology of GWL variations in Paris Basin aquifers was first determined by quantifying the variance distribution across timescales. Four GWL variation types could be found according to the predominance of annual, multi-annual or/and decadal variabilities in these signals: decadal dominant (type iD), multi-annual and decadal dominant (type iMD), annual dominant (type cA), annual and multi-annual dominant (type cAM). We observed a clear dependence of high and low GWL to LFV for aquifers exhibiting these four GWL variation types. In addition, the respective contribution of multi-annual and decadal variabilities in the threshold exceedance varied according to the event. In numerous aquifers, it also appeared that the sensitivity to LFV was higher for LL than HL. A similar analysis was conducted on the only available long-term GWL time series which covered a hundred years. This allowed us to highlight a potential influence of multidecadal variability on HL and LL too.

This study underlined the key role of LFV in the occurrence of HL and LL. Since LFV originates from large-scale stochastic climate variability as demonstrated in many previous studies in the Paris Basin or nearby regions, our results point out that i) poor representation of LFV in General Circulation Models (GCM) outputs used afterwards for developing hydrological projections can result in strong uncertainty in the assessment of future groundwater extremes (GWE), ii) potential changes in the amplitude of LFV, be they natural or induced by global climate change, may lead to substantial changes in the occurrence and severity of GWE for the next decades. Finally, this study also stresses the fact that due to the stochastic nature of LFV, no deterministic prediction of future GWE for the mid- or long term horizons can be achieved even though LFV may look periodic.

Lisa Baulon et al.

Status: open (until 07 Mar 2022)

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Lisa Baulon et al.

Lisa Baulon et al.


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Short summary
Aquifers often act as low-pass filters, dampening high-frequency (infra-annual) and amplifying low-frequency (LFV, multi-annual to multidecadal) variabilities originating from climate variability. By processing groundwater level signals, we show the key role of LFV in the occurrence of extreme groundwater levels (GWE). Results highlight how changes in LFV may impact future GWE, as well as the importance of correct representation of LFV in General Circulation Model outputs for GWE projection.