Terrestrial Hydrology Research Group

Princeton University

Global Runoff to the Oceans (1950-2008)


This archive contains estimates of runoff to the ocenas for all river outlets globally, excluding Greenland and Antarctica, based on routing through the simulated topological network at 30-minute spatial resolution (STN-30p, version 6.01; 2004–07) flow network [Vörösmarty et al. 2000; downloaded from Water Systems Analysis Group (2007)] at 1/2-degree latitude-by-longitude resolution using the Lohmann et al. (1996, 1998) routing model. The data set is a hybrid of simulated and observed streamflow for 4 model-method combinations, as described in Clark et al., J. Hydrometeor. (2015).

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The dataset is freely available but we ask that you leave a few details about yourself and how you intend to use the dataset. Also, please cite the reference below if you use the data. If the dataset is updated, this will be noted below.

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Jun 26 2020
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Clark, E.A., J. Sheffield, M.T.H. van Vliet, B. Nijssen, and D.P. Lettenmaier, 2015, Continental runoff into the oceans (1950-2008), J. Hydrometeor., http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JHM-D-14-0183.1.

A common term in the continental and oceanic components of the global water cycle is freshwater discharge to the oceans. Many estimates of the annual average global discharge have been made over the past 100 yr with a surprisingly wide range. As more observations have become available and continental-scale land surface model simulations of runoff have improved, these past estimates are cast in a somewhat different light. In this paper, a combination of observations from 839 river gauging stations near the outlets of large river basins is used in combination with simulated runoff fields from two implementations of the Variable Infiltration Capacity land surface model to estimate continental runoff into the world’s oceans from 1950 to 2008. The gauges used account for ~58% of continental areas draining to the ocean worldwide, excluding Greenland and Antarctica. This study estimates that flows to the world’s oceans globally are 44 200 (±2660) km3 yr−1 (9% from Africa, 37% from Eurasia, 30% from South America, 16% from North America, and 8% from Australia–Oceania). These estimates are generally higher than previous estimates, with the largest differences in South America and Australia–Oceania. Given that roughly 42% of ocean-draining continental areas are ungauged, it is not surprising that estimates are sensitive to the land surface and hydrologic model (LSM) used, even with a correction applied to adjust for model bias. The results show that more and better in situ streamflow measurements would be most useful in reducing uncertainties, in particular in the southern tip of South America, the islands of Oceania, and central Africa.


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