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Calibration and evaluation of a semi-distributed watershed model of sub-Saharan Africa using GRACE data

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Author(s): H. Xie | L. Longuevergne | C. Ringler | B. Scanlon

Journal: Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Discussions
ISSN 1812-2108

Volume: 9;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 2071;
Date: 2012;
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ABSTRACT
Irrigation development is rapidly expanding in mostly rainfed Sub-Saharan Africa. This expansion underscores the need for a more comprehensive understanding of water resources beyond surface water. Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites provide valuable information on spatio-temporal variability of water storage. The objective of this study was to calibrate and evaluate a semi-distributed regional-scale hydrological model, or a large-scale application of the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model, for basins in Sub-Saharan Africa using seven-year (2002–2009) 10-day GRACE data. Multi-site river discharge data were used as well, and the analysis was conducted in a multi-criteria framework. In spite of the uncertainty arising from the tradeoff in optimizing model parameters with respect to two non-commensurable criteria defined for two fluxes, it is concluded that SWAT can perform well in simulating total water storage variability in most areas of Sub-Saharan Africa, which have semi-arid and sub-humid climates, and that among various water storages represented in SWAT, the water storage variations from soil, the vadose zone, and groundwater are dominant. On the other hand, the study also showed that the simulated total water storage variations tend to have less agreement with the GRACE data in arid and equatorial humid regions, and the model-based partition of total water storage variations into different water storage compartments could be highly uncertain. Thus, future work will be needed for model enhancement in these areas with inferior model fit and for uncertainty reduction in component-wise estimation of water storage variations.
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