Articles | Volume 16, issue 7
Research article
03 Jul 2012
Research article |  | 03 Jul 2012

Reconnoitering the effect of shallow groundwater on land surface temperature and surface energy balance using MODIS and SEBS

F. Alkhaier, Z. Su, and G. N. Flerchinger

Abstract. The possibility of observing shallow groundwater depth and areal extent using satellite measurements can support groundwater models and vast irrigation systems management. Moreover, these measurements can help to include the effect of shallow groundwater on surface energy balance within land surface models and climate studies, which broadens the methods that yield more reliable and informative results. To examine the capacity of MODIS in detecting the effect of shallow groundwater on land surface temperature and the surface energy balance in an area within Al-Balikh River basin in northern Syria, we studied the interrelationship between in-situ measured water table depths and land surface temperatures measured by MODIS. We, also, used the Surface Energy Balance System (SEBS) to calculate surface energy fluxes, evaporative fraction and daily evaporation, and inspected their relationships with water table depths. We found out that the daytime temperature increased while the nighttime temperature decreased when the depth of the water table increased. And, when the water table depth increased, net radiation, latent and ground heat fluxes, evaporative fraction and daily evaporation decreased, while sensible heat flux increased. This concords with the findings of a companion paper (Alkhaier et al., 2012). The observed clear relationships were the result of meeting both conditions that were concluded in the companion paper, i.e. high potential evaporation and big contrast in day-night temperature. Moreover, the prevailing conditions in this study area helped SEBS to yield accurate estimates. Under bare soil conditions and under the prevailing weather conditions, we conclude that MODIS is suitable for detecting the effect of shallow groundwater because it has proper imaging times and adequate sensor accuracy; nevertheless, its coarse spatial resolution is disadvantageous.