Evaluation of methods for aerodynamic roughness length retrieval from very high-resolution imaging LIDAR observations over the heihe basin in China

Robin Faivre*, Jérôme Colin, Massimo Menenti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
36 Downloads (Pure)


The parameterization of heat transfer based on remote sensing data, and the Surface Energy Balance System (SEBS) scheme to retrieve turbulent heat fluxes, already proved to be very appropriate for estimating evapotranspiration (ET) over homogeneous land surfaces. However, the use of such a method over heterogeneous landscapes (e.g., semi-arid regions or agricultural land) becomes more difficult, since the principle of similarity theory is compromised by the presence of different heat sources at various heights. This study aims to propose and evaluate some models based on vegetation geometry partly developed by Colin and Faivre, to retrieve the surface aerodynamic roughness length for momentum transfer (z0m), which is a key parameter in the characterization of heat transfer. A new approach proposed by the authors consisted in the use of a Digital Surface Model (DSM) as boundary condition for experiments with a Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) model to reproduce 3D wind fields, and to invert them to retrieve a spatialized roughness parameter. Colin and Faivre also applied the geometrical Raupach's approach for the same purpose. These two methods were evaluated against two empirical ones, widely used in Surface Energy Balance Index (SEBI) based algorithms (Moran; Brutsaert), and also against an alternate geometrical model proposed by Menenti and Ritchie. The investigation was carried out in the Yingke oasis (China) using very-high resolution remote sensing data (VNIR, TIR & LIDAR), for a precise description of the land surface, and a fine evaluation of estimated heat fluxes based on in-situ measurements. A set of five numerical experiments was carried out to evaluate each roughness model. It appears that methods used in experiments 2 (based on Brutsaert) and 4 (based on Colin and Faivre) are the most accurate to estimate the aerodynamic roughness length, according to the estimated heat fluxes. However, the formulation used in experiment 2 allows to minimize errors in both latent and sensible heat flux, and to preserve a good partitioning. An additional evaluation of these two methods based on another kB-1 parameterization could be necessary, given that the latter is not always compatible with the CFD-based retrieval method.

Original languageEnglish
Article number63
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Evapotranspiration
  • Heat transfer
  • Heterogeneous land surfaces
  • Light detection and ranging (LIDAR)
  • Optical remote sensing
  • Roughness length
  • Surface energy balance


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