U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska




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Zhang, Y., X. Lin, P. Gowda, D. Brown, Z. Zambreski, and S. Kutikoff. 2019. “Recent Ogallala Aquifer Region Drought Conditions as Observed by Terrestrial Water Storage Anomalies from GRACE.” Journal of the American Water Resources Association 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1111/1752-1688.12798.


Recent severe drought events have occurred over the Ogallala Aquifer region (OAR) during the period 2011–2015, creating significant impacts on water resources and their use in regional environmental and economic systems. The changes in terrestrial water storage (TWS), as indicated by the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), reveals a detailed picture of the temporal and spatial evolution of drought events. The observations by GRACE indicate the worst drought conditions occurred in September 2012, with an average TWS deficit of ~8 cm in the northern OAR and ~11 cm in the southern OAR, consistent with precipitation data from the Global Precipitation Climatology Project. Comparing changes in TWS with precipitation shows the TWS changes can be predominantly attributable to variations in precipitation. Power spectrum and squared wavelet coherence analysis indicate a significant correlation between TWS change and the El Nino- Southern Oscillation, and the influence of equatorial Pacific sea surface temperatures on TWS change is much stronger in the southern OAR than the northern OAR. The results of this study illustrate the value of GRACE in not just the diagnosis of significant drought events, but also in possibly improving the predictive power of remote signals that are impacted by nonregional climatic events (El Nino), ultimately leading to improved water resource management applications on a regional scale. Editor’s note: This paper is part of the featured series on Optimizing Ogallala Aquifer Water Use to Sustain Food Systems. See the February 2019 issue for the introduction and background to the series.