Droughts and floods in the La Plata Basin in soil moisture data and GRACE

Sarah Abelen, Florian Seitz, Rodrigo Abarca-del-Rio, Andreas Güntner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


The mapping and forecasting of droughts and floods is an important potential field of application of global soil moisture and water storage products from satellites and models. Especially when extremes in near-surface soil moisture propagate into extremes in total water storage, agricultural production and water supply can be severely impacted. This study relates soil moisture from the WaterGAP Global Hydrology Model (WGHM) and the satellite sensors Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer-Earth Observing System (AMSR-E) and Advanced Scatterometer (ASCAT) to total water storage variations from the satellite gravity mission GRACE. A particular focus is on destructive hydrological extreme events, as listed in the International Disaster Database EM-DAT. Data sets are analyzed via correlation, time shift, and principal component analyses. The study area is the La Plata Basin in South America. The results indicate that most of the soil moisture anomalies are linked to periods of El Niño and La Niña and associated natural disasters. For the La Plata drought of 2008/2009 and the El Niño flooding of 2009/2010, soil moisture serves as an indicator for the later deficit or surplus in total water storage. These hydrological anomalies were strongest in the southern, central, and eastern parts of the basin, but more than one hundred thousand people were also affected in the northwestern part.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7324-7349
Number of pages26
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2015


  • AMSR-E
  • Drought
  • EM-DAT
  • El Niño/La Niña
  • Flood
  • La Plata Basin
  • Soil moisture
  • WGHM


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