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Modelling hourly evapotranspiration in urban environments with SCOPE using open remote sensing and meteorological data

Rocha, Alby Duarte; Vulova, Stenka; Tol, Christiaan van der; Förster, Michael; Kleinschmit, Birgit

Evapotranspiration (ET) is a fundamental variable for assessing water balance and the urban heat island (UHI) effect. Terrestrial ET is deeply dependent on the land cover as it derives mainly from soil evaporation and plant transpiration. The majority of well-known process-based models based on the Penman–Monteith equation focus on the atmospheric interfaces (e.g. radiation, temperature and humidity), lacking explicit input parameters to precisely describe vegetation and soil properties. The model soil-canopy-observation of photosynthesis and energy fluxes (SCOPE) accounts for a broad range of surface–atmosphere interactions to predict ET. However, like most modelling approaches, SCOPE assumes a homogeneous vegetated landscape to estimate ET. As urban environments are highly fragmented, exhibiting a mix of vegetated and impervious surfaces, we propose a two-stage modelling approach to capture most of the spatiotemporal variability of ET without making the model overly complex. After predicting ET using the SCOPE model, the bias caused by the assumption of homogeneous vegetation is corrected using the vegetation fraction extracted by footprint modelling. Two urban sites equipped with eddy flux towers presenting different levels of vegetation fraction and imperviousness located in Berlin, Germany, were used as study cases. The correction factor for urban environments increased the model accuracy significantly, reducing the relative bias in ET predictions from 0.74 to 0.001 and 2.20 to −0.13 for the two sites considering the SCOPE model with remote sensing-derived inputs. Model errors (RMSE) were considerably reduced in both sites, from 0.061 to 0.026 and 0.100 to 0.021, while the coefficient of determination (R2) remained similar after correction, 0.82 and 0.47, respectively. The novelty of this study is to provide hourly ET predictions combining the temporal dynamics of ET in a natural environment with the spatially fragmented land cover in urban environments at a low computational cost. All model inputs are open data and available globally for most medium-sized and large cities. This approach can provide ET maps in different temporal resolutions to better manage vegetation in cities in order to mitigate the UHI effect and droughts.
Published in: Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 10.5194/hess-26-1111-2022, Copernicus