Uncertainty and sensitivity analysis of a remote-sensing-based penman-monteith model to meteorological and land surface input variables

N.P. Majozi*, C.M. Mannaerts, Abel Ramoelo, Renaud Mathieu, W. Verhoef

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
97 Downloads (Pure)


This study analysed the uncertainty and sensitivity of core and intermediate input variables of a remote-sensing-data-based Penman-Monteith (PM-Mu) evapotranspiration (ET) model. We derived absolute and relative uncertainties of core measured meteorological and remote-sensing-based atmospheric and land surface input variables and parameters of the PM-Mu model. Uncertainties of important intermediate data components (i.e., net radiation and aerodynamic and surface resistances) were also assessed. To estimate the instrument measurement uncertainties of the in situ meteorological input variables, we used the reported accuracies of the manufacturers. Observational accuracies of the remote sensing input variables (land surface temperature (LST), land surface emissivity (#s), leaf area index (LAI), land surface albedo (a)) were derived from peer-reviewed satellite sensor validation reports to compute their uncertainties. The input uncertainties were propagated to the final model’s evapotranspiration estimation uncertainty. Our analysis indicated relatively high uncertainties associated with relative humidity (RH), and hence all the intermediate variables associated with RH, like vapour pressure deficit (VPD) and the surface and aerodynamic resistances. This is in contrast to other studies, which reported LAI uncertainty as the most influential. The semi-arid conditions and seasonality of the regional South African climate and high temporal frequency of the variations in VPD, air and land surface temperatures could explain the uncertainties observed in this study. The results also showed the ET algorithm to be most sensitive to the air-land surface temperature difference. An accurate assessment of those in situ and remotely sensed variables is required to achieve reliable evapotranspiration model estimates in these generally dry regions and climates. A significant advantage of the remote-sensing-based ET method remains its full area coverage in contrast to classic-point (station)-based ET estimates.

Original languageEnglish
Article number882
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalRemote sensing
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2021


  • Absolute uncertainty
  • Evapotranspiration
  • Penman-monteith
  • Relative uncertainty
  • Remote sensing
  • Sensitivity analysis
  • Uncertainty analysis


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