Development of a simple groundwater model for use in climate models and evaluation with Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment data

Guo Yue Niu, Zong Liang Yang, Robert E. Dickinson, Lindsey E. Gulden, Hua Su

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

402 Scopus citations


Groundwater interacts with soil moisture through the exchanges of water between the unsaturated soil and its underlying aquifer under gravity and capillary forces. Despite its importance, groundwater is not explicitly represented in climate models. This paper developed a simple groundwater model (SIMGM) by representing recharge and discharge processes of the water storage in an unconfined aquifer, which is added as a single integration element below the soil of a land surface model. We evaluated the model against the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) terrestrial water storage change (ΔS) data. The modeled total water storage (including unsaturated soil water and groundwater) change agrees fairly well with GRACE estimates. The anomaly of the modeled groundwater storage explains most of the GRACE ΔS anomaly in most river basins where the water storage is not affected by snow water or frozen soil. For this reason, the anomaly of the modeled water table depth agrees well with that converted from the GRACE ΔS in most of the river basins. We also investigated the impacts of groundwater dynamics on soil moisture and evapotranspiration through the comparison of SIMGM to an additional model run using gravitational free drainage (FD) as the model's lower boundary condition. SIMGM produced much wetter soil profiles globally and up to 16% more annual evapotranspiration than FD, most obviously in arid-to-wet transition regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberD07103
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 16 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology


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