Relation between GRACE-derived surface mass variations and precipitation over Australia

D. Rieser, M. Kuhn*, R. Pail, I. M. Anjasmara, J. Awange

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


Surface mass changes (SMCs) obtained from time-variable gravity observations of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission and precipitation data from the Australian Bureau of Metrology and the Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission are analysed over the Australian continent to determine whether there is a statistically significant correlation between them. The multiple linear regression analysis and the principal-component analysis techniques are applied in order to reveal the spatial and temporal variability of each data set separately as well as their mutual relationships. The study provides results and their statistical significance for the whole of Australia including the Murray Darling Basin in the southeast. The results suggest a significant decrease in water storage in the southeast of Australia and a dominant annual cycle over the majority of the continent for the four year period considered (January 2003 to December 2006), both in the surface mass and rainfall time series. The study revealed a direct relation between the data sets over most parts of Australia as confirmed by visual comparison and correlation analysis. When compared with precipitation data GRACE-derived SMCs exhibit smoother spatial and temporal variations. The latter is better suited to detect long-term trends in the presence of strong annual signals, which can adversely affect long-term trend estimates. Results regarding the magnitude of the annual signal suggest that only about a fourth of the precipitation's water masses remain sufficiently long in an area to be detected as a gravity change. The respective phases of the annual signals show an average time lag of about 40 days between precipitation and SMCs, suggesting that it takes about one to two months until a temporal gravity observation can detect a precipitation event.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)887-900
Number of pages14
JournalAustralian Journal of Earth Sciences
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Australia
  • Murray Darling Basin
  • Precipitation
  • Principal-component analysis
  • Regression
  • TRMM
  • Time-variable gravity


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