Articles | Volume 16, issue 2
Research article
06 Feb 2012
Research article |  | 06 Feb 2012

Physically-based modeling of topographic effects on spatial evapotranspiration and soil moisture patterns through radiation and wind

M. Liu, A. Bárdossy, J. Li, and Y. Jiang

Abstract. In this paper, simulations with the Soil Water Atmosphere Plant (SWAP) model are performed to quantify the spatial variability of both potential and actual evapotranspiration (ET), and soil moisture content (SMC) caused by topography-induced spatial wind and radiation differences. To obtain the spatially distributed ET/SMC patterns, the field scale SWAP model is applied in a distributed way for both pointwise and catchment wide simulations. An adapted radiation model from r.sun and the physically-based meso-scale wind model METRAS PC are applied to obtain the spatial radiation and wind patterns respectively, which show significant spatial variation and correlation with aspect and elevation respectively. Such topographic dependences and spatial variations further propagate to ET/SMC. A strong spatial, seasonal-dependent, scale-relevant intra-catchment variability in daily/annual ET and less variability in SMC can be observed from the numerical experiments. The study concludes that topography has a significant effect on ET/SMC in the humid region where ET is a energy limited rather than water availability limited process. It affects the spatial runoff generation through spatial radiation and wind, therefore should be applied to inform hydrological model development. In addition, the methodology used in the study can serve as a general method for physically-based ET estimation for data sparse regions.