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Understanding the global freshwater system by combining geodetic and remote sensing information with modelling using a calibration/data assimilation approach.


01.12.2017 - 31.12.2020

01.01.2021 - 31.12.2023


DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft)


Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jürgen Kusche

M.Sc. Kerstin Schulze

M.Sc. Helena Gerdner


Contemporary global hydrological or land surface models provide conflicting estimates of e.g., mean annual evapotranspiration or low, mean, and high flows in river basins, resulting in strongly differing estimates of current water availability or of climate change impacts on freshwater resources. The central objective of the Research Unit GlobalCDA is to improve our understanding of global freshwater resources and to obtain better estimates of continental water fluxes (streamflow, groundwater recharge, actual evapotranspiration, and renewable water resources) and storages (in snow, soil, groundwater and surface water bodies as well as in glaciers). The primary goals will be:

(1) develop a multi-observation ensemble-based calibration and data assimilation (C/DA) methodology to combine observational data of model output variables (time series of gauge-based streamflow, GRACE/GRACE-FO total water storage variations, remotely-sensed extent and level of surface water bodies, snow cover, glacier mass change and streamflow) with hydrological models in an optimal manner.

(2) exploit this methodology with the global hydrological model WaterGAP to provide an improved quantitative assessment of freshwater fluxes and storages including their uncertainties in response to climate and anthropogenic forcing.

Work packages

Development of C/DA approach.

Hydrological model development.

Development and provision of observational data for C/DA and validation.

Validation, characterization of model output uncertainty and evaluation of C/DA.

Assessment of water storages and flows in critical regions.


Goethe University Frankfurt, University of Bonn.


University of Bonn, Goethe University Frankfurt, GFZ Potsdam, HafenCity University Hamburg, TU Munich, University of Stuttgart, DLR German Aerospace Center, University of Zurich, University of Luxembourg.


University of Rennes, UC Davis.

For more details, pleasae visit the Project Website.