Phenophase-based comparison of field observations to satellite-based actual evaporation estimates of a natural woodland: miombo woodland, southern Africa

Henry Zimba*, Miriam Coenders-Gerrits, Banda Kawawa, Bart Schilperoort, Nick van de Giesen, Imasiku Nyambe, Hubert H. G. Savenije

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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The trend and magnitude of actual evaporation across the phenophases of miombo woodlands are unknown. This is because estimating evaporation in African woodland ecosystems continues to be a challenge, as flux observation towers are scant if not completely lacking in most ecosystems. Furthermore, significant phenophase-based discrepancies in both trend and magnitude exist among the satellitebased evaporation estimates (i.e. Global Land Evaporation Amsterdam Model (GLEAM), moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometer (MODIS), operational simplified surface energy balance (SSEBop), and water productivity through open-access remotely sensed derived data (WaPOR)), making it difficult to ascertain which of the estimates are close to field conditions. Despite the many limitations with estimation of evaporation in woodlands, the development and application of the distributed temperature system (DTS) is providing deepened insights and improved accuracy in woodland energy partitioning for evaporation assessment. In this study, the Bowen ratio distributed temperature sensing (BRDTS) approach is used to partition available energy and estimate actual evaporation across three canopy phenophases of the miombo woodland, covering the entire 2021 dry season (May–October) and early rain season (November– December) at a representative site in Mpika in Zambia, southern Africa. To complement the field experiment, four satellite-based evaporation estimates are compared to the field observations. Our results show that actual evaporation of the miombo woodland appears to follow the trend of the net radiation, with the lowest values observed during the phenophase with the lowest net radiation in the cool dry season and the highest values during the phenophase with peak net radiation in the early rainy season. It appears the continued transpiration during the driest period in the dormant phenophase (with lowest canopy cover and photosynthetic activities) may be influenced by the species-dependent adapted physiological attributes such as access to moisture in deep soils (i.e. due to deep rooting), plant water storage, and the simultaneous leaf fall and leaf flush among miombo plants. Of the four satellite-based evaporation estimates, only the WaPOR has a similar trend to the field observations across the three phenophases. However, all four satellitebased estimates underestimate the actual evaporation during the dormant and green-up phenophases. Large coefficients of variation in actual evaporation estimates among the satellite-based estimates exist in the dormant and green-up phenophases and are indicative of the difficulty in estimating actual evaporation in these phenophases. The differences between field observations and satellite-based evaporation estimates can be attributed to the model structure, processes, and inputs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1695-1722
Number of pages28
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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