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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 8, issue 8
Biogeosciences, 8, 2269–2280, 2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Special issue: Earth observation for land-atmosphere interaction science

Biogeosciences, 8, 2269–2280, 2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 22 Aug 2011

Research article | 22 Aug 2011

Characterizing the multi–scale spatial structure of remotely sensed evapotranspiration with information theory

N. A. Brunsell1 and M. C. Anderson2 N. A. Brunsell and M. C. Anderson
  • 1Dept. of Geography, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, USA
  • 2Hydrology and Remote Sensing Lab, USDA, Beltsville, MD, USA

Abstract. A more thorough understanding of the multi-scale spatial structure of land surface heterogeneity will enhance understanding of the relationships and feedbacks between land surface conditions, mass and energy exchanges between the surface and the atmosphere, and regional meteorological and climatological conditions. The objectives of this study were to (1) quantify which spatial scales are dominant in determining the evapotranspiration flux between the surface and the atmosphere and (2) to quantify how different spatial scales of atmospheric and surface processes interact for different stages of the phenological cycle. We used the ALEXI/DisALEXI model for three days (DOY 181, 229 and 245) in 2002 over the Ft. Peck Ameriflux site to estimate the latent heat flux from Landsat, MODIS and GOES satellites. We then applied a multiresolution information theory methodology to quantify these interactions across different spatial scales and compared the dynamics across the different sensors and different periods. We note several important results: (1) spatial scaling characteristics vary with day, but are usually consistent for a given sensor, but (2) different sensors give different scalings, and (3) the different sensors exhibit different scaling relationships with driving variables such as fractional vegetation and near surface soil moisture. In addition, we note that while the dominant length scale of the vegetation index remains relatively constant across the dates, the contribution of the vegetation index to the derived latent heat flux varies with time. We also note that length scales determined from MODIS are consistently larger than those determined from Landsat, even at scales that should be detectable by MODIS. This may imply an inability of the MODIS sensor to accurately determine the fine scale spatial structure of the land surface. These results aid in identifying the dominant cross-scale nature of local to regional biosphere-atmosphere interactions.

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