The complementary relationship between actual and potential evaporation for spatially heterogeneous surfaces

Milad Aminzadeh, Dani Or

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The Complementary Relationship (CR) between actual and potential evaporation offers an attractive framework for estimating actual evaporation of drying land surfaces from simple meteorological measurements. Land surfaces are often heterogeneous with variable soil types, land cover, and local hydrologic conditions that give rise to spatially variable evaporation dynamics. The main aim is to incorporate effects of spatial heterogeneities on estimates of actual evaporation in the CR framework. The study extends the physically based approach of Aminzadeh et al. (2016) and proposes upscaling schemes for land-atmosphere interactions affecting reference evaporation from heterogeneous surfaces comprised of vegetation and bare soil patches. For small-scale surface heterogeneity relative to the extent of convective boundary layer (CBL), area-averaged atmospheric boundary conditions were imposed over the domain of interest to integrate contributions from patches with different dynamics. For large-scale heterogeneity (large patches relative to the scale of the mean CBL), fluxes from each patch were weighted by their respective areas. Preliminary results are in reasonable agreement with available field measurements and illustrate various effects of heterogeneous surface evaporative fluxes on the CR response. The results also highlight hidden dynamics not captured by standard CR, such as ability of vegetated patches to support steady evaporative fluxes until the onset of water stress while bare soil has already dried out. The study provides new insights into the roles of different vegetation types, land cover fraction, and atmospheric conditions on regional CR behavior hence advancing predictive capabilities of actual evapotranspiration from spatially heterogeneous land surfaces.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)580-601
Number of pages22
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 29 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2022-06-07
Acknowledgements: Funding by the Swiss National Science Foundation (200021–113442) is gratefully acknowledged. The authors greatly appreciate the generous assistance of Matthew McCabe and Bruno Aragon Solorio (KAUST) in providing data from the eddy covariance station in the Tawdeehiya farm (Saudi Arabia), and the insightful comments provided by the Associate Editor and three anonymous reviewers. Results of this study made use of eddy covariance data from Oensingen (Switzerland) and Wetzstein (Germany) acquired by the FLUXNET community; we are grateful for accessing to these data sets.
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.


Dive into the research topics of 'The complementary relationship between actual and potential evaporation for spatially heterogeneous surfaces'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this