We increasingly rely on global models to project impacts of humans and climate on water resources. How reliable are these models? While past model intercomparison projects focused on water fluxes, we provide here the first comprehensive comparison of land total water storage trends from seven global models to trends from Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites, which have been likened to giant weighing scales in the sky.
The models underestimate the large decadal (2002–2014) trends in water storage relative to GRACE satellites, both decreasing trends related to human intervention and climate and increasing trends related primarily to climate variations. The poor agreement between models and GRACE underscores the challenges remaining for global models to capture human or climate impacts on global water storage trends.