Articles | Volume 19, issue 5
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 2145–2161, 2015
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 2145–2161, 2015

Research article 05 May 2015

Research article | 05 May 2015

Actual evapotranspiration and precipitation measured by lysimeters: a comparison with eddy covariance and tipping bucket

S. Gebler, H.-J. Hendricks Franssen, T. Pütz, H. Post, M. Schmidt, and H. Vereecken S. Gebler et al.
  • Agrosphere Institute (IBG-3), Forschungszentrum Jülich, 52425 Jülich, Germany

Abstract. This study compares actual evapotranspiration (ETa) measurements by a set of six weighable lysimeters, ETa estimates obtained with the eddy covariance (EC) method, and evapotranspiration calculated with the full-form Penman–Monteith equation (ETPM) for the Rollesbroich site in the Eifel (western Germany). The comparison of ETa measured by EC (including correction of the energy balance deficit) and by lysimeters is rarely reported in the literature and allows more insight into the performance of both methods. An evaluation of ETa for the two methods for the year 2012 shows a good agreement with a total difference of 3.8% (19 mm) between the ETa estimates. The highest agreement and smallest relative differences (< 8%) on a monthly basis between both methods are found in summer. ETa was close to ETPM, indicating that ET was energy limited and not limited by water availability. ETa differences between lysimeter and EC were mainly related to differences in grass height caused by harvest and the EC footprint. The lysimeter data were also used to estimate precipitation amounts in combination with a filter algorithm for the high-precision lysimeters recently introduced by Peters et al. (2014). The estimated precipitation amounts from the lysimeter data differ significantly from precipitation amounts recorded with a standard rain gauge at the Rollesbroich test site. For the complete year 2012 the lysimeter records show a 16 % higher precipitation amount than the tipping bucket. After a correction of the tipping bucket measurements by the method of Richter (1995) this amount was reduced to 3%. With the help of an on-site camera the precipitation measurements of the lysimeters were analyzed in more detail. It was found that the lysimeters record more precipitation than the tipping bucket, in part related to the detection of rime and dew, which contribute 17% to the yearly difference between both methods. In addition, fog and drizzle explain an additional 5.5% of the total difference. Larger differences are also recorded for snow and sleet situations. During snowfall, the tipping bucket device underestimated precipitation severely, and these situations contributed also 7.9% to the total difference. However, 36% of the total yearly difference was associated with snow cover without apparent snowfall, and under these conditions snow bridges and snow drift seem to explain the strong overestimation of precipitation by the lysimeter. The remaining precipitation difference (about 33%) could not be explained and did not show a clear relation to wind speed. The variation of the individual lysimeters devices compared to the lysimeter mean are small, showing variations up to 3% for precipitation and 8% for evapotranspiration.