Indian Forum for Water Adroit

Thermal Infrared Remote Sensing Observations on Evapotranspiration Uncertainty

Pankaj Dey

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  • Institute : Indian Institute of Science
  • Programming language : MATLAB, R
Thermal infrared remote sensing observations have been widely used to provide useful information on surface energy and water stress for estimating evapotranspiration (ET). However, the revisit time of current high spatial resolution (<100 m) thermal infrared remote sensing systems, sixteen days for Landsat for example, can be insufficient to reliably derive ET information for water resources management. We used in situ ET measurements from multiple Ameriflux sites to (1) evaluate different scaling methods that are commonly used to derive daytime ET estimates from time-of-day observations; and (2) quantify the impact of different revisit times on ET estimates at monthly and seasonal time scales. The scaling method based on a constant evaporative ratio between ET and the top-of-atmosphere solar radiation provided slightly better results than methods using the available energy, the surface solar radiation or the potential ET as scaling reference fluxes. On average, revisit time periods of 2, 4, 8 and 16 days resulted in ET uncertainties of 0.37, 0.55, 0.73 and 0.90 mm per day in summer, which represented 13%, 19%, 23% and 31% of the monthly average ET calculated using the one-day revisit dataset. The capability of a system to capture rapid changes in ET was significantly reduced for return periods higher than eight days. The impact of the revisit on ET depended mainly on the land cover type and seasonal climate, and was higher over areas with high ET. We did not observe significant and systematic differences between the impacts of the revisit on monthly ET estimates that are based on morning or afternoon observations. We found that four-day revisit scenarios provided a significant improvement in temporal sampling to monitor surface ET reducing by around 40% the uncertainty of ET products derived from a 16-day revisit system, such as Landsat for instance.