Articles | Volume 15, issue 1
21 Jan 2011
 | 21 Jan 2011

Modelling hourly rates of evaporation from small lakes

R. J. Granger and N. Hedstrom

Abstract. The paper presents the results of a field study of open water evaporation carried out on three small lakes in Western and Northern Canada. In this case small lakes are defined as those for which the temperature above the water surface is governed by the upwind land surface conditions; that is, a continuous boundary layer exists over the lake, and large-scale atmospheric effects such as entrainment do not come into play. Lake evaporation was measured directly using eddy covariance equipment; profiles of wind speed, air temperature and humidity were also obtained over the water surfaces. Observations were made as well over the upwind land surface.

The major factors controlling open water evaporation were examined. The study showed that for time periods shorter than daily, the open water evaporation bears no relationship to the net radiation; the wind speed is the most significant factor governing the evaporation rates, followed by the land-water temperature contrast and the land-water vapour pressure contrast. The effect of the stability on the wind field was demonstrated; relationships were developed relating the land-water wind speed contrast to the land-water temperature contrast. The open water period can be separated into two distinct evaporative regimes: the warming period in the Spring, when the land is warmer than the water, the turbulent fluxes over water are suppressed; and the cooling period, when the water is warmer than the land, the turbulent fluxes over water are enhanced.

Relationships were developed between the hourly rates of lake evaporation and the following significant variables and parameters (wind speed, land-lake temperature and humidity contrasts, and the downwind distance from shore). The result is a relatively simple versatile model for estimating the hourly lake evaporation rates. The model was tested using two independent data sets. Results show that the modelled evaporation follows the observed values very well; the model follows the diurnal trends and responds to changes in environmental conditions.