A global assessment of PT-JPL soil evaporation in agroecosystems with optical, thermal, and microwave satellite data

Lilin Zhang*, M. Marshall, A. Nelson, A. Vrieling

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Evapotranspiration (ET) accounts for water movements from land to air and plays a vital role in the terrestrial water, energy, and carbon cycles. Reliable estimates of ET for agricultural landscapes can facilitate water resources management and food security analysis. The widely used Priestley-Taylor Jet Propulsion Laboratory (PT-JPL) model has the most potential to operationally simulate ET over large areas, but its inability to fully track soil evaporation dynamics using atmospheric humidity limits its application in agroecosystems. In this study, we isolated the uncertainties resulting from soil evaporation and assessed three Earth observation-based alternatives - apparent thermal inertia (ATI), microwave soil moisture (SM), and optical spectral indices based on shortwave infrared (SWIR) to formulate soil evaporation. Our results illustrate that the incorporation of the SWIR-based soil moisture divergence index (SMDI) and microwave-based SM into monthly soil evaporation led to 6% and 5% increase in explained ET variances and reduced RMSE by 23.2% and 13.1% for cropland and grassland, respectively, as compared to PT-JPL using atmospheric reanalysis data only. Further analyses demonstrated that PT-SMDI explained more observed ET variances than PT-JPL using in-situ measurements of atmospheric humidity during the crop growing season, particularly for irrigated cropland (R2=0.65 for PT-SMDI; R2=0.62 for PT-JPL). On the other hand, the use of microwave SM outperformed other indices for ET assessment in grasslands but had lower performance in croplands. Our results suggest that a combination of optical SWIR and microwave SM has good potential to improve the PT-JPL model accuracy for agricultural landscapes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number108455
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalAgricultural and forest meteorology
Early online date18 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2021


  • Agriculture
  • Atmospheric humidity
  • ATI
  • Evapotranspiration
  • SWIR
  • Soil moisture
  • UT-Hybrid-D


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