An application of GRACE mission datasets for streamflow and baseflow estimation in the Conterminous United States basins

S. Mohanasundaram, Mesfin M. Mekonnen, Erin Haacker, Chittaranjan Ray, Sokneth Lim, Sangam Shrestha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Runoff and baseflow estimates provide critical information on surface and groundwater flow dynamics, water resource availability, and water usage patterns for effective water resource planning and management. Developing a physical-based model at large spatial scales such as continental/global scales require extensive datasets, complex parameterization, and higher computational capacity. Recent advances in satellite datasets related to water cycle process modeling, on the other hand, involve less parameterization and more effective computation over larger spatial and finer temporal scales. Evapotranspiration (ET) is a critical flux in the water cycle that can be estimated with reasonable accuracy from satellite-based information by using complementary relationship (CR) concepts. Similarly, the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission satellite datasets provide useful estimates of total water storage change over large spatial extents. GRACE datasets have been extensively used in groundwater storage change and groundwater depletion studies. However, the application of GRACE data products for estimating runoff and baseflow is limited. Therefore, in this study, we used a CR approach to estimate ET and a water balance method for estimating runoff and baseflow over the Conterminous United States (CONUS). We evaluated the CR-based water balance model (CR-GRACE) with United States Geological Survey (USGS) runoff datasets based on hydrologic unit code level-2 (HUC-2) basin boundaries. The CR-GRACE model estimated annual runoff values agreed with USGS runoff values with root mean square error (RMSE) and correlation coefficient values of 14.7 mm/month and 0.81, respectively. We also evaluated the CR-GRACE model with two well-known Land Surface Models (LSM), Noah-LSM and Variable Infiltration Capacity LSM (VIC-LSM), from the Global Land Data Assimilation System (GLDAS) database. The comparison results for baseflow estimates from the CR-GRACE model have improved over Noah-LSM and VIC-LSM model estimates with RMSE values of 62.16, 101.00, and 207.32 mm/year, respectively. Furthermore, this study demonstrates the feasibility of using the CR-GRACE model to estimate runoff and baseflows with limited parameterization and datasets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number126622
JournalJournal of Hydrology
StatePublished - Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Baseflow
  • Complementary relationship
  • Evapotranspiration
  • Runoff
  • Water balance equation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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