Articles | Volume 21, issue 8
Research article
10 Aug 2017
Research article |  | 10 Aug 2017

Area-averaged evapotranspiration over a heterogeneous land surface: aggregation of multi-point EC flux measurements with a high-resolution land-cover map and footprint analysis

Feinan Xu, Weizhen Wang, Jiemin Wang, Ziwei Xu, Yuan Qi, and Yueru Wu

Abstract. The determination of area-averaged evapotranspiration (ET) at the satellite pixel scale/model grid scale over a heterogeneous land surface plays a significant role in developing and improving the parameterization schemes of the remote sensing based ET estimation models and general hydro-meteorological models. The Heihe Watershed Allied Telemetry Experimental Research (HiWATER) flux matrix provided a unique opportunity to build an aggregation scheme for area-averaged fluxes. On the basis of the HiWATER flux matrix dataset and high-resolution land-cover map, this study focused on estimating the area-averaged ET over a heterogeneous landscape with footprint analysis and multivariate regression. The procedure is as follows. Firstly, quality control and uncertainty estimation for the data of the flux matrix, including 17 eddy-covariance (EC) sites and four groups of large-aperture scintillometers (LASs), were carefully done. Secondly, the representativeness of each EC site was quantitatively evaluated; footprint analysis was also performed for each LAS path. Thirdly, based on the high-resolution land-cover map derived from aircraft remote sensing, a flux aggregation method was established combining footprint analysis and multiple-linear regression. Then, the area-averaged sensible heat fluxes obtained from the EC flux matrix were validated by the LAS measurements. Finally, the area-averaged ET of the kernel experimental area of HiWATER was estimated. Compared with the formerly used and rather simple approaches, such as the arithmetic average and area-weighted methods, the present scheme is not only with a much better database, but also has a solid grounding in physics and mathematics in the integration of area-averaged fluxes over a heterogeneous surface. Results from this study, both instantaneous and daily ET at the satellite pixel scale, can be used for the validation of relevant remote sensing models and land surface process models. Furthermore, this work will be extended to the water balance study of the whole Heihe River basin.