Multi-site evaluation of terrestrial evaporation models using FLUXNET data

A. Ershadi, M. F. McCabe, J. P. Evans, N. W. Chaney, Eric F. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

234 Scopus citations


We evaluated the performance of four commonly applied land surface evaporation models using a high-quality dataset of selected FLUXNET towers. The models that were examined include an energy balance approach (Surface Energy Balance System; SEBS), a combination-type technique (single-source Penman-Monteith; PM), a complementary method (advection-aridity; AA) and a radiation based approach (modified Priestley-Taylor; PT-JPL). Twenty FLUXNET towers were selected based upon satisfying stringent forcing data requirements and representing a wide range of biomes. These towers encompassed a number of grassland, cropland, shrubland, evergreen needleleaf forest and deciduous broadleaf forest sites. Based on the mean value of the Nash-Sutcliffe efficiency (NSE) and the root mean squared difference (RMSD), the order of overall performance of the models from best to worst were: ensemble mean of models (0.61, 64), PT-JPL (0.59, 66), SEBS (0.42, 84), PM (0.26, 105) and AA (0.18, 105) [statistics stated as (NSE, RMSD in Wm-2)]. Although PT-JPL uses a relatively simple and largely empirical formulation of the evaporative process, the technique showed improved performance compared to PM, possibly due to its partitioning of total evaporation (canopy transpiration, soil evaporation, wet canopy evaporation) and lower uncertainties in the required forcing data. The SEBS model showed low performance over tall and heterogeneous canopies, which was likely a consequence of the effects of the roughness sub-layer parameterization employed in this scheme. However, SEBS performed well overall. Relative to PT-JPL and SEBS, the PM and AA showed low performance over the majority of sites, due to their sensitivity to the parameterization of resistances. Importantly, it should be noted that no single model was consistently best across all biomes. Indeed, this outcome highlights the need for further evaluation of each model's structure and parameterizations to identify sensitivities and their appropriate application to different surface types and conditions. It is expected that the results of this study can be used to inform decisions regarding model choice for water resources and agricultural management, as well as providing insight into model selection for global flux monitoring efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)46-61
Number of pages16
JournalAgricultural and Forest Meteorology
StatePublished - Apr 15 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Forestry
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Atmospheric Science


  • Advection-aridity
  • Energy balance
  • Latent heat flux
  • Multi-model intercomparison
  • Penman-Monteith
  • Priestley-Taylor


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