Articles | Volume 17, issue 4
Research article
15 Apr 2013
Research article |  | 15 Apr 2013

Estimation of evapotranspiration from MODIS TOA radiances in the Poyang Lake basin, China

J. Peng, Y. Liu, X. Zhao, and A. Loew

Abstract. Routine and rapid estimation of ET (evapotranspiration) at regional scale is of great significance for agricultural, hydrological and climatic studies. A simplified single-source energy balance parameterization scheme, known as the LST/NDVI (land surface temperature/normalized difference vegetation index) triangle method, has been applied successfully to estimate regional clear sky ET in many studies. Based on the triangle method, we proposed a new method in this study to estimate daily ET directly using the TOA (top of atmosphere) radiances without performing atmospheric correction and other complicated processes. Firstly, the EF (evaporative fraction, defined as the ratio of latent heat flux to surface available energy) was estimated by interpolation in the LST/NDVI triangular-shaped scatter space, which was constructed using the MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) TOA radiances over a heterogeneous area of the Poyang Lake basin in China. Then the net radiation over the same study area was derived based entirely on MODIS TOA radiances as well. Finally, daily ET maps were estimated from these EF maps and net radiation maps by using a sinusoidal temporal interpolation model. The estimated EF, net radiation and ET have been validated against field observations collected for the period October 2007–July 2008. The results indicate comparable accuracy to results of other current widely used satellite-based methods. In addition, intercomparisons between the proposed method-based estimates and MODIS products-based estimates were also carried out over the validation site. The results suggest that the proposed method could reach similar level of accuracy as the MODIS products-based triangle method. Overall, the proposed algorithm requires fewer assumptions and can avoid complex atmospheric corrections associated with the satellite derived products. It should facilitate direct use of satellite data for determining ET and relevant applications as well. Nonetheless, more validation work needs to be carried out with more integration of satellite data and ground-based measurements over various climatic regions and under different surface conditions in the future.