Continental-scale water fluxes from continuous GPS observations of Earth surface loading

Tuesday, 15 December 2015: 09:30
2002 (Moscone West)
Adrian A Borsa1, Duncan Carr Agnew2 and Daniel R Cayan2, (1)Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA, United States, (2)University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, United States
After more than a decade of observing annual oscillations of Earth's surface from seasonal snow and water loading, continuous GPS is now being used to model time-varying terrestrial water fluxes on the local and regional scale. Although the largest signal is typically due to the seasonal hydrological cycle, GPS can also measure subtle surface deformation caused by sustained wet and dry periods, and to estimate the spatial distribution of the underlying terrestrial water storage changes. The next frontier is expanding this analysis to the continental scale and paving the way for incorporating GPS models into the National Climate Assessment and into the observational infrastructure for national water resource management. This will require reconciling GPS observations with predictions from hydrological models and with remote sensing observations from a suite of satellite instruments (e.g. GRACE, SMAP, SWOT). The elastic Earth response which transforms surface loads into vertical and horizontal displacements is also responsible for the contamination of loading observations by tectonic and anthropogenic transients, and we discuss these and other challenges to this new application of GPS.