Dead Sea evaporation by eddy covariance measurements vs. aerodynamic, energy budget, Priestley–Taylor, and Penman estimates
Abstract. The Dead Sea is a terminal lake, located in an arid environment. Evaporation is the key component of the Dead Sea water budget and accounts for the main loss of water. So far, lake evaporation has been determined by indirect methods only and not measured directly. Consequently, the governing factors of evaporation are unknown. For the first time, long-term eddy covariance measurements were performed at the western Dead Sea shore for a period of 1 year by implementing a new concept for onshore lake evaporation measurements. To account for lake evaporation during offshore wind conditions, a robust and reliable multiple regression model was developed using the identified governing factors wind velocity and water vapour pressure deficit. An overall regression coefficient of 0.8 is achieved. The measurements show that the diurnal evaporation cycle is governed by three local wind systems: a lake breeze during daytime, strong downslope winds in the evening, and strong northerly along-valley flows during the night. After sunset, the strong winds cause half-hourly evaporation rates which are up to 100 % higher than during daytime. The median daily evaporation is 4.3 mm d−1 in July and 1.1 mm d−1 in December. The annual evaporation of the water surface at the measurement location was 994±88 mm a−1 from March 2014 until March 2015. Furthermore, the performance of indirect evaporation approaches was tested and compared to the measurements. The aerodynamic approach is applicable for sub-daily and multi-day calculations and attains correlation coefficients between 0.85 and 0.99. For the application of the Bowen ratio energy budget method and the Priestley–Taylor method, measurements of the heat storage term are inevitable on timescales up to 1 month. Otherwise strong seasonal biases occur. The Penman equation was adapted to calculate realistic evaporation, by using an empirically gained linear function for the heat storage term, achieving correlation coefficients between 0.92 and 0.97. In summary, this study introduces a new approach to measure lake evaporation with a station located at the shoreline, which is also transferable to other lakes. It provides the first directly measured Dead Sea evaporation rates as well as applicable methods for evaporation calculation. The first one enables us to further close the Dead Sea water budget, and the latter one enables us to facilitate water management in the region.