Remote Sensing and Aerodynamic Temperature-Based Energy Balance Models to Estimate Crop Evapotranspiration Rates

  •  José L. Chávez    


Different methods exist to measure or estimate actual crop evapotranspiration (ETa). However, some methods require a large number of data input or strict field conditions. Remote sensing based ETa algorithms based on extreme thermal pixels (hot and cold) have limitations when required extreme pixels are not present in the acquired thermal infra-red imagery. In addition, satellite overpass frequency and spatial pixel resolution may be a limitation for some agricultural fields and micro-climates. Surface energy balance methods that use surface radiometric temperatures often fail to perform well under drought, limited irrigation, salt affected soils, or under sparse vegetation conditions. One option is to measure or estimate the crop/surface sensible heat flux through the aerodynamic temperature approach, then calculate the available energy and solve the energy balance for latent heat flux. Thus, this study presents different published algorithms that characterize the crop or field surface aerodynamic temperature and then applies them to different conditions for evaluation. Determining spatial ETa continuously has the potential to improve the irrigation water management decision making. The aerodynamic temperature approach was initially developed with good results as a function of surface radiometric temperature, air temperature, crop leaf area index, and wind speed or surface aerodynamic resistance. However, the inclusion of the crop fractional percent cover and of a new resistance term (turbulent-mixing row resistance) greatly improved the estimation of the sensible heat and latent heat fluxes, when evaluated with heat flux data derived from eddy covariance energy balance towers. Results also indicate that the aerodynamic method has transferability potential to different regions, crops, and irrigation methods than the conditions encountered in the method development.

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