The observed state of the water cycle in the early twenty-first century

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Rodell, Matthew
Beaudoing, Hiroko K.
L’Ecuyer, Tristan S.
Olson, William S.
Famiglietti, James S.
Houser, Paul R.
Adler, Robert
Bosilovich, Michael G.
Clayson, Carol A.
Chambers, Don P.
Clark, Edward A.
Fetzer, Eric J.
Gao, X.
Gu, Guojun
Hilburn, K. A.
Huffman, George J.
Lettenmaier, Dennis P.
Liu, W. Timothy
Robertson, Franklin R.
Schlosser, C. Adam
Sheffield, Justin
Wood, Eric F.
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Physical Meteorology and Climatology
Water budget
Observational techniques and algorithms
Remote sensing
Mathematical and statistical techniques
Numerical analysis/modeling
This study quantifies mean annual and monthly fluxes of Earth’s water cycle over continents and ocean basins during the first decade of the millennium. To the extent possible, the flux estimates are based on satellite measurements first and data-integrating models second. A careful accounting of uncertainty in the estimates is included. It is applied within a routine that enforces multiple water and energy budget constraints simultaneously in a variational framework in order to produce objectively determined optimized flux estimates. In the majority of cases, the observed annual surface and atmospheric water budgets over the continents and oceans close with much less than 10% residual. Observed residuals and optimized uncertainty estimates are considerably larger for monthly surface and atmospheric water budget closure, often nearing or exceeding 20% in North America, Eurasia, Australia and neighboring islands, and the Arctic and South Atlantic Oceans. The residuals in South America and Africa tend to be smaller, possibly because cold land processes are negligible. Fluxes were poorly observed over the Arctic Ocean, certain seas, Antarctica, and the Australasian and Indonesian islands, leading to reliance on atmospheric analysis estimates. Many of the satellite systems that contributed data have been or will soon be lost or replaced. Models that integrate ground-based and remote observations will be critical for ameliorating gaps and discontinuities in the data records caused by these transitions. Continued development of such models is essential for maximizing the value of the observations. Next-generation observing systems are the best hope for significantly improving global water budget accounting.
Author Posting. © American Meteorological Society, 2015. This article is posted here by permission of American Meteorological Society for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Climate 28 (2015): 8289–8318, doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-14-00555.1.
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Journal of Climate 28 (2015): 8289–8318
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