Articles | Volume 17, issue 4
Review article
10 Apr 2013
Review article |  | 10 Apr 2013

Estimating actual, potential, reference crop and pan evaporation using standard meteorological data: a pragmatic synthesis

T. A. McMahon, M. C. Peel, L. Lowe, R. Srikanthan, and T. R. McVicar

Abstract. This guide to estimating daily and monthly actual, potential, reference crop and pan evaporation covers topics that are of interest to researchers, consulting hydrologists and practicing engineers. Topics include estimating actual evaporation from deep lakes and from farm dams and for catchment water balance studies, estimating potential evaporation as input to rainfall-runoff models, and reference crop evapotranspiration for small irrigation areas, and for irrigation within large irrigation districts. Inspiration for this guide arose in response to the authors' experiences in reviewing research papers and consulting reports where estimation of the actual evaporation component in catchment and water balance studies was often inadequately handled. Practical guides using consistent terminology that cover both theory and practice are not readily available. Here we provide such a guide, which is divided into three parts. The first part provides background theory and an outline of the conceptual models of potential evaporation of Penman, Penman–Monteith and Priestley–Taylor, as well as discussions of reference crop evapotranspiration and Class-A pan evaporation. The last two sub-sections in this first part include techniques to estimate actual evaporation from (i) open-surface water and (ii) landscapes and catchments (Morton and the advection-aridity models). The second part addresses topics confronting a practicing hydrologist, e.g. estimating actual evaporation for deep lakes, shallow lakes and farm dams, lakes covered with vegetation, catchments, irrigation areas and bare soil. The third part addresses six related issues: (i) automatic (hard wired) calculation of evaporation estimates in commercial weather stations, (ii) evaporation estimates without wind data, (iii) at-site meteorological data, (iv) dealing with evaporation in a climate change environment, (v) 24 h versus day-light hour estimation of meteorological variables, and (vi) uncertainty in evaporation estimates.

This paper is supported by a Supplement that includes 21 sections enhancing the material in the text, worked examples of many procedures discussed in the paper, a program listing (Fortran 90) of Morton's WREVAP evaporation models along with tables of monthly Class-A pan coefficients for 68 locations across Australia and other information.

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