Articles | Volume 13, issue 5
20 May 2009
 | 20 May 2009

Estimating spatially distributed monthly evapotranspiration rates by linear transformations of MODIS daytime land surface temperature data

J. Szilagyi and J. Jozsa

Abstract. Under simplifying conditions catchment-scale vapor pressure at the drying land surface can be calculated as a function of its watershed-representative temperature (<Ts>) by the wet-surface equation (WSE, similar to the wet-bulb equation in meteorology for calculating the dry-bulb thermometer vapor pressure) of the Complementary Relationship of evaporation. The corresponding watershed ET rate, <ET>, is obtained from the Bowen ratio with the help of air temperature, humidity and percent possible sunshine data. The resulting (<Ts>,<ET>) pair together with the wet-environment surface temperature (<Tws>) and ET rate (ETw), obtained by the Priestley-Taylor equation, define a linear transformation on a monthly basis by which spatially distributed ET rates can be estimated as a sole function of MODIS daytime land surface temperature, Ts, values within the watershed. The linear transformation preserves the mean which is highly desirable. <Tws>, in the lack of significant open water surfaces within the study watershed (Elkhorn, Nebraska), was obtained as the mean of the smallest MODIS Ts values each month. The resulting period-averaged (2000–2007) catchment-scale ET rate of 624 mm/yr is very close to the water-balance derived ET rate of about 617 mm/yr. The latter is a somewhat uncertain value due to the effects of (a) observed groundwater depletion of about 1m over the study period caused by extensive irrigation, and; (b) the uncertain rate of net regional groundwater supply toward the watershed. The spatially distributed ET rates correspond well with soil/aquifer properties and the resulting land use type (i.e. rangeland versus center-pivot irrigated crops).