Articles | Volume 15, issue 1
Research article
18 Jan 2011
Research article |  | 18 Jan 2011

Mapping daily evapotranspiration and dryness index in the East African highlands using MODIS and SEVIRI data

Z. Sun, M. Gebremichael, J. Ardö, and H. A. R. de Bruin

Abstract. Routine information on regional evapotranspiration (ET) and dryness index is essential for agricultural water management, drought monitoring, and studies of water cycle and climate. However, this information is not currently available for the East Africa highlands. The main purpose of this study is to develop (1) a new methodology that produces spatially gridded daily ET estimates on a (near) real-time basis exclusively from satellite data, and (2) a new dryness index that depends only on satellite data and weather forecast data. The methodology that calculates daily actual ET involves combining data from two sensors (MODIS and SEVIRI) onboard two kinds of platforms (Terra – polar orbit satellite and MSG – geostationary orbit satellite). The methodology is applied to the East African highlands, and results are compared to eddy covariance measurements at one site. Results show that the methodology produces ET estimates that accurately reproduce the daily fluctuation in ET but tends to underestimate ET on the average. It is concluded that the synergistic use of the polar-orbiting MODIS data and the geostationary-orbiting SEVIRI data has potential to produce reliable daily ET, but further research is needed to improve the accuracy of the results. This study also proposes an operational new dryness index that can be calculated from the satellite-based daily actual ET estimates and daily reference ET estimates based on SEVIRI data and weather forecast air temperature. Comparison of this index against ground measurements of daily actual ET at one site indicates that the new dryness index can be used for drought monitoring.