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Project Reference


Title Water Cycle Feasability

Thematic Area Water Cycle

Cost 300 - 400 K

Action Line Novel Algorithms and Products

Status Completed in 2014



Project Description


The overall objective of the WATCHFUL project was to assess the feasibility of characterising the water cycle at global and basin scales using earth observation (EO) data and to promote the use and acceptance of EO products within the hydrological and climate communities in view of preparing future activities. The WATCHFUL project is made up of three main themes. Theme 1 has a global scope and focused on the characterisation and closure of the global water budget using EO-derived data sets. Furthermore, uncertainties and errors of the used data sets are investigated. Theme 2 aimed at enhancing the future development and use of EO-derived data within the hydrological modelling community. Surface soil moisture and flood extent derived from Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) as well as water levels were assimilated into a coupled hydrologic-hydraulic model to improve flood forecasting at the basin scale. Theme 3, aimed at exploring novel methodological techniques to derive consistent datasets at basin scale that ensure the water budget closure. On theme 1, the study on trends in extreme values was also applied to a novel, multi-sensor, long-term soil moisture dataset which covers the years from 1978 to 2010 (Liu et al., 2012). Dorigo et al. (2012) found negative trends in average monthly soil moisture mainly in arid and semi-arid regions of Australia, Central Asia and Northern China. Likewise, in this study, significant trends in extreme soil moisture values (5 and 95th percentiles) were observed particularly over arid and semi-arid areas. On Theme 2, the basin-scale theme of the project, soil moisture and flood extent products based on moderate-resolution ENVISAT ASAR Wide Swath (WS) mode data were produced for three different case studies located in Europe (Severn River , UK and Alzette River, Luxemburg) and Africa (Zambezi River). For each catchment, the datasets have been assimilated in hydrological models evaluation the synergistic impacts of both products. Within Theme 3, a novel dataset of water cycle components optimised for water budget closure was created based on the methodology introduced by Aires (2014). The methodology has been applied to the Mississippi Basin demonstrating the potential to extend the method to the major basins of the world in the future. The dataset comprises optimised estimates of precipitation, evapotranspiration, runoff and GRACE-based change in total water storage

Project Consortium

Project Partners TUW : Technische Universitaet Wien (Prime contractor)
ESTELLUS : ESTELLUS, France(Subcontractor)
U Bristol : University of Bristol(Subcontractor)
CRP-GL : Centre de Recherche Public - Gabriel Lippmann(Subcontractor)

Contact Points

Project Manager Prof Wolfgang Wagner
Technische Universität Wien,
Department of Geodesy and Geoinformation
Research Groups Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
Gu√Ÿhausstra√Ÿe 27 - 29
1040 Vienna
Tel: +43-(0)1-58801-12225
Fax: +43-(0)1-58801-12299
Email: ww(at)

Technical Officer Marcela Boubkova


Useful Information

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