A comparison of global and regional GRACE models for land hydrology

R. Klees, X. Liu, T. Wittwer, B. C. Gunter, E. A. Revtova, Robert Tenzer, P. Ditmar, H. C. Winsemius, H. H.G. Savenije

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


When using GRACE as a tool for hydrology, many different gravity field model products are now available to the end user. The traditional spherical harmonics solutions produced from GRACE are typically obtained through an optimization of the gravity field data at the global scale, and are generated by a number of processing centers around the world. Alternatives to this global approach include so-called regional techniques, for which many variants exist, but whose common trait is that they only use the gravity data collected over the area of interest to generate the solution. To determine whether these regional solutions hold any advantage over the global techniques in terms of overall accuracy, a range of comparisons were made using some of the more widely used regional and global methods currently available. The regional techniques tested made use of either spherical radial basis functions or single layer densities (i.e., mascons), with the global solutions having been obtained from the various major processing centers. The solutions were evaluated using a range of computed statistics over a selection of major river basins, which were globally distributed and ranged in size from 1 to 6 million km2. For one of the basins tested, the Zambezi, additional validation tests were conducted through comparisons against a custom designed regional hydrology model of the region. We could not prove that current regional models perform better than global ones. Monthly mean water storage variations agree at the level of 0.02 m equivalent water height. The differences in terms of monthly mean water storage variations between regional and global solutions are comparable with the differences among only global or regional solutions. Typically they reach values of 0.02 m equivalent water heights, which seems to be the level of accuracy of current GRACE solutions for river basins above 1 million km2. The amplitudes of the seasonal mass variations agree at the sub-centimetre level. Evident from all of the comparisons shown is the importance that the choice of regularization, or spatial filtering, can have on the solution quality. This was found to be true for global as well as regional techniques.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335-359
Number of pages25
JournalSurveys in Geophysics
Issue number4-5
Publication statusPublished - 8 Dec 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Global gravity models
  • Land hydrology
  • Regional gravity models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology

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