Articles | Volume 9, issue 1
Research article
09 Jan 2012
Research article |  | 09 Jan 2012

Alternative methods to predict actual evapotranspiration illustrate the importance of accounting for phenology – Part 2: The event driven phenology model

V. Kovalskyy and G. M. Henebry

Abstract. Evapotranspiration (ET) flux constitutes a major component of both the water and energy balances at the land surface. Among the many factors that control evapotranspiration, phenology poses a major source of uncertainty in attempts to predict ET. Contemporary approaches to ET modeling and monitoring frequently summarize the complexity of the seasonal development of vegetation cover into static phenological trajectories (or climatologies) that lack sensitivity to changing environmental conditions. The Event Driven Phenology Model (EDPM) offers an alternative, interactive approach to representing phenology. This study presents the results of an experiment designed to illustrate the differences in ET arising from various techniques used to mimic phenology in models of land surface processes. The experiment compares and contrasts two realizations of static phenologies derived from long-term satellite observations of the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) against canopy trajectories produced by the interactive EDPM trained on flux tower observations. The assessment was carried out through validation of predicted ET against records collected by flux tower instruments. The VegET model (Senay, 2008) was used as a framework to estimate daily actual evapotranspiration and supplied with seasonal canopy trajectories produced by the EDPM and traditional techniques. The interactive approach presented the following advantages over phenology modeled with static climatologies: (a) lower prediction bias in crops; (b) smaller root mean square error in daily ET – 0.5 mm per day on average; (c) stable level of errors throughout the season similar among different land cover types and locations; and (d) better estimation of season duration and total seasonal ET.

Final-revised paper