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Mapping daily evapotranspiration at Landsat spatial scales during the BEAREX’08 field campaign

Anderson, Martha C., Kustas, William P., Alfieri, Joseph G., Gao, Feng, Hain, Christopher, Prueger, John H., Evett, Steven, Colaizzi, Paul, Howell, Terry, Chávez, José L.
Advances in Water Resources 2012 v.50 pp. 162
Landsat, algorithms, biomass, eddy covariance, energy balance, evapotranspiration, growing season, image analysis, lysimeters, models, rain, remote sensing, soil texture, solar radiation, Texas
Robust spatial information about environmental water use at field scales and daily to seasonal timesteps will benefit many applications in agriculture and water resource management. This information is particularly critical in arid climates where freshwater resources are limited or expensive, and groundwater supplies are being depleted at unsustainable rates to support irrigated agriculture as well as municipal and industrial uses. Gridded evapotranspiration (ET) information at field scales can be obtained periodically using land-surface temperature-based surface energy balance algorithms applied to moderate resolution satellite data from systems like Landsat, which collects thermal-band imagery every 16. days at a resolution of approximately 100. m. The challenge is in finding methods for interpolating between ET snapshots developed at the time of a clear-sky Landsat overpass to provide complete daily time-series over a growing season. This study examines the efficacy of a simple gap-filling algorithm designed for applications in data-sparse regions, which does not require local ground measurements of weather or rainfall, or estimates of soil texture. The algorithm relies on general conservation of the ratio between actual ET and a reference ET, generated from satellite insolation data and standard meteorological fields from a mesoscale model. The algorithm was tested with ET retrievals from the Atmosphere-Land Exchange Inverse (ALEXI) surface energy balance model and associated DisALEXI flux disaggregation technique, which uses Landsat-scale thermal imagery to reduce regional ALEXI maps to a finer spatial resolution. Daily ET at the Landsat scale was compared with lysimeter and eddy covariance flux measurements collected during the Bushland Evapotranspiration and Agricultural Remote sensing EXperiment of 2008 (BEAREX08), conducted in an irrigated agricultural area in the Texas Panhandle under highly advective conditions. The simple gap-filling algorithm performed reasonably at most sites, reproducing observed cumulative ET to within 5-10% over the growing period from emergence to peak biomass in both rainfed and irrigated fields.