Articles | Volume 17, issue 9
Research article
30 Sep 2013
Research article |  | 30 Sep 2013

An original interpretation of the wet edge of the surface temperature–albedo space to estimate crop evapotranspiration (SEB-1S), and its validation over an irrigated area in northwestern Mexico

O. Merlin

Abstract. The space defined by the pair surface temperature (T) and surface albedo (α), and the space defined by the pair T and fractional green vegetation cover (fvg) have been extensively used to estimate evaporative fraction (EF) from solar/thermal remote sensing data. In both space-based approaches, evapotranspiration (ET) is estimated as remotely sensed EF times the available energy. For a given data point in the T-α space or in the T-fvg space, EF is derived as the ratio of the distance separating the point from the line identified as the dry edge to the distance separating the dry edge and the line identified as the wet edge. The dry and wet edges are classically defined as the upper and lower limit of the spaces, respectively. When investigating side by side the T-α and the T-fvg spaces, one observes that the range covered by T values on the (classically determined) wet edge is different for both spaces. In addition, when extending the wet and dry lines of the T-α space, both lines cross at α ≈ 0.4 although the wet and dry edges of the T-fvg space never cross for 0 ≤ fvg < 1. In this paper, a new ET (EF) model (SEB-1S) is derived by revisiting the classical physical interpretation of the T-α space to make its wet edge consistent with that of the T-fvg space. SEB-1S is tested over a 16 km by 10 km irrigated area in northwestern Mexico during the 2007–2008 agricultural season. The classical T-α space-based model is implemented as benchmark to evaluate the performance of SEB-1S. Input data are composed of ASTER (Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection radiometer) thermal infrared, Formosat-2 shortwave, and station-based meteorological data. The fluxes simulated by SEB-1S and the classical T-α space-based model are compared on seven ASTER overpass dates with the in situ measurements collected at six locations within the study domain. The ET simulated by SEB-1S is significantly more accurate and robust than that predicted by the classical T-α space-based model. The correlation coefficient and slope of the linear regression between simulated and observed ET is improved from 0.82 to 0.93, and from 0.63 to 0.90, respectively. Moreover, constraining the wet edge using air temperature data improves the slope of the linear regression between simulated and observed ET.