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Advances in Meteorology
Volume 2016, Article ID 4830603, 9 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2016/4830603
Research Article

Are GRACE-era Terrestrial Water Trends Driven by Anthropogenic Climate Change?

1National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO 80301, USA
2Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309, USA

Received 30 November 2015; Accepted 21 February 2016

Academic Editor: Sergio M. Vicente-Serrano

Copyright © 2016 J. T. Fasullo et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

To provide context for observed trends in terrestrial water storage (TWS) during GRACE (2003–2014), trends and variability in the CESM1-CAM5 Large Ensemble (LE) are examined. Motivated in part by the anomalous nature of climate variability during GRACE, the characteristics of both forced change and internal modes are quantified and their influences on observations are estimated. Trends during the GRACE era in the LE are dominated by internal variability rather than by the forced response, with TWS anomalies in much of the Americas, eastern Australia, Africa, and southwestern Eurasia largely attributable to the negative phases of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). While similarities between observed trends and the model-inferred forced response also exist, it is inappropriate to attribute such trends mainly to anthropogenic forcing. For several key river basins, trends in the mean state and interannual variability and the time at which the forced response exceeds background variability are also estimated while aspects of global mean TWS, including changes in its annual amplitude and decadal trends, are quantified. The findings highlight the challenge of detecting anthropogenic climate change in temporally finite satellite datasets and underscore the benefit of utilizing models in the interpretation of the observed record.