Improved remotely sensed total basin discharge and its seasonal error characterization in the yangtze river basin

Yutong Chen, Hok Sum Fok, Zhongtian Ma, Robert Tenzer

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Total basin discharge is a critical component for the understanding of surface water exchange at the land–ocean interface. A continuous decline in the number of global hydrological stations over the past fifteen years has promoted the estimation of total basin discharge using remote sensing. Previous remotely sensed total basin discharge of the Yangtze River basin, expressed in terms of runoff, was estimated via the water balance equation, using a combination of remote sensing and modeled data products of various qualities. Nevertheless, the modeled data products are presented with large uncertainties and the seasonal error characteristics of the remotely sensed total basin discharge have rarely been investigated. In this study, we conducted total basin discharge estimation of the Yangtze River Basin, based purely on remotely sensed data. This estimation considered the period between January 2003 and December 2012 at a monthly temporal scale and was based on precipitation data collected from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite, evapotranspiration data collected from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) satellite, and terrestrial water storage data collected from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite. A seasonal accuracy assessment was performed to detect poor performances and highlight any deficiencies in the modeled data products derived from the discharge estimation. Comparison of our estimated runoff results based purely on remotely sensed data, and the most accurate results of a previous study against the observed runoff revealed a Pearson correlation coefficient (PCC) of 0.89 and 0.74, and a root‐mean‐square error (RMSE) of 11.69 mm/month and 14.30 mm/month, respectively. We identified some deficiencies in capturing the maximum and the minimum of runoff rates during both summer and winter, due to an underestimation and overestimation of evapotranspiration, respectively.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3386
JournalSensors (Switzerland)
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019


  • GRACE satellite gravimetry
  • MODIS satellite‐derived evapotranspiration
  • Total basin discharge
  • TRMM satellite precipitation
  • Yangtze River Basin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Instrumentation
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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