Articles | Volume 21, issue 2
Research article
17 Feb 2017
Research article |  | 17 Feb 2017

Daily Landsat-scale evapotranspiration estimation over a forested landscape in North Carolina, USA, using multi-satellite data fusion

Yun Yang, Martha C. Anderson, Feng Gao, Christopher R. Hain, Kathryn A. Semmens, William P. Kustas, Asko Noormets, Randolph H. Wynne, Valerie A. Thomas, and Ge Sun

Abstract. As a primary flux in the global water cycle, evapotranspiration (ET) connects hydrologic and biological processes and is directly affected by water and land management, land use change and climate variability. Satellite remote sensing provides an effective means for diagnosing ET patterns over heterogeneous landscapes; however, limitations on the spatial and temporal resolution of satellite data, combined with the effects of cloud contamination, constrain the amount of detail that a single satellite can provide. In this study, we describe an application of a multi-sensor ET data fusion system over a mixed forested/agricultural landscape in North Carolina, USA, during the growing season of 2013. The fusion system ingests ET estimates from the Two-Source Energy Balance Model (TSEB) applied to thermal infrared remote sensing retrievals of land surface temperature from multiple satellite platforms: hourly geostationary satellite data at 4 km resolution, daily 1 km imagery from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and biweekly Landsat thermal data sharpened to 30 m. These multiple ET data streams are combined using the Spatial and Temporal Adaptive Reflectance Fusion Model (STARFM) to estimate daily ET at 30 m resolution to investigate seasonal water use behavior at the level of individual forest stands and land cover patches. A new method, also exploiting the STARFM algorithm, is used to fill gaps in the Landsat ET retrievals due to cloud cover and/or the scan-line corrector (SLC) failure on Landsat 7. The retrieved daily ET time series agree well with observations at two AmeriFlux eddy covariance flux tower sites in a managed pine plantation within the modeling domain: US-NC2 located in a mid-rotation (20-year-old) loblolly pine stand and US-NC3 located in a recently clear-cut and replanted field site. Root mean square errors (RMSEs) for NC2 and NC3 were 0.99 and 1.02 mm day−1, respectively, with mean absolute errors of approximately 29 % at the daily time step, 12 % at the monthly time step and 0.7 % over the full study period at the two flux tower sites. Analyses of water use patterns over the plantation indicate increasing seasonal ET with stand age for young to mid-rotation stands up to 20 years, but little dependence on age for older stands. An accounting of consumptive water use by major land cover classes representative of the modeling domain is presented, as well as relative partitioning of ET between evaporation (E) and transpiration (T) components obtained with the TSEB. The study provides new insights about the effects of management and land use change on water yield over forested landscapes.

Short summary
This work explores the utility of a thermal remote sensing based MODIS/Landsat ET data fusion procedure over a mixed forested/agricultural landscape in North Carolina, USA. The daily ET retrieved at 30 m resolution agreed well with measured fluxes in a clear-cut and a mature pine stand. An accounting of consumptive water use by land cover classes is presented, as well as relative partitioning of ET between evaporation (E) and transpiration (T) components.