Articles | Volume 15, issue 1
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 15, 295–310, 2011

Special issue: Earth observation and water cycle science

Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 15, 295–310, 2011

Research article 25 Jan 2011

Research article | 25 Jan 2011

Particular uncertainties encountered in using a pre-packaged SEBS model to derive evapotranspiration in a heterogeneous study area in South Africa

L. A. Gibson1,2, Z. Münch3, and J. Engelbrecht4 L. A. Gibson et al.
  • 1Agricultural Research Council-Institute for Soil, Climate and Water, Private Bag X5017, Stellenbosch, 7599, South Africa
  • 2Department of Environmental and Geographical Science, University of Cape Town, Shell Environmental & Geographical Science Building, South Lane, Upper Campus, University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa
  • 3Stellenbosch University, Private Bag X1, Matieland, 7602, South Africa
  • 4Council for Geoscience, Western Cape Unit, P.O. Box 572, Bellville, 7535, South Africa

Abstract. The focus of this paper is on the pre-packaged version of SEBS in ILWIS and the sensitivity of SEBS to some parameters over which the user has some control when using this version of the model, in order to make informed choices to limit uncertainties. The sensitivities of SEBS to input parameters are related to daily ET rather than energy flux results since this is of interest to water managers and other users of the results of the SEBS model. This paper describes some of the uncertainties introduced by the sensitivity of the SEBS model to (a) land surface temperature and air temperature gradient, (b) the choice of fractional vegetation formula, (c) displacement height and the height at which wind speed is measured, and (d) study area heterogeneity. It was shown that SEBS is sensitive to land surface temperature and air temperature gradient and the magnitude of this sensitivity depended on the land cover and whether or not the wet-limit had been reached. The choice of fractional vegetation cover formula was shown to influence the daily ET results by up to 0.7 mm. It was shown that the height of the vegetation canopy should be considered in relation to the weather station reference height to avoid the sensible heat flux from becoming unsolvable due to a negative ln calculation. Finally the study area was shown to be heterogeneous although the resolution at which fluxes were calculated did not significantly impact on energy partitioning results. The differences in the upscaling from evaporative fraction to daily ET at varying resolutions observed implies that the heterogeneity may play the biggest role in the upscaling and the influence of albedo on this calculation should be studied.