Elastic deformation as a tool to investigate watershed storage connectivity

Noah Clayton, Ellen Knappe, Alissa M. White, Hilary Martens, Donald F. Argus, Nicholas Lau, Adrian A. Borsa, Rebecca Bendick, W. Payton Gardner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Storage-discharge relationships and dynamic changes in storage connectivity remain key unknowns in understanding and predicting watershed behavior. In this study, we use Global Positioning System measurements of load-induced Earth surface displacement as a proxy for total water storage change in four climatologically diverse mountain watersheds in the western United States. Comparing total water storage estimates with stream-connected storage derived from hydrograph analysis, we find that each of the investigated watersheds exhibits a characteristic seasonal pattern of connection and disconnection between total and stream-connected storage. We investigate how the degree and timing of watershed-scale connectivity is related to the timing of precipitation and seasonal changes in dominant hydrologic processes. Our results show that elastic deformation of the Earth due to water loading is a powerful new tool for elucidating dynamic storage connectivity and watershed discharge response across scales in space and time.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110
JournalCommunications Earth and Environment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 29 2024


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