Uncertainty analysis of the Operational Simplified Surface Energy Balance (SSEBop) model at multiple flux tower sites

Journal of Hydrology
By: , and 



Evapotranspiration (ET) is an important component of the water cycle – ET from the land surface returns approximately 60% of the global precipitation back to the atmosphere. ET also plays an important role in energy transport among the biosphere, atmosphere, and hydrosphere. Current regional to global and daily to annual ET estimation relies mainly on surface energy balance (SEB) ET models or statistical and empirical methods driven by remote sensing data and various climatological databases. These models have uncertainties due to inevitable input errors, poorly defined parameters, and inadequate model structures. The eddy covariance measurements on water, energy, and carbon fluxes at the AmeriFlux tower sites provide an opportunity to assess the ET modeling uncertainties. In this study, we focused on uncertainty analysis of the Operational Simplified Surface Energy Balance (SSEBop) model for ET estimation at multiple AmeriFlux tower sites with diverse land cover characteristics and climatic conditions. The 8-day composite 1-km MODerate resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) land surface temperature (LST) was used as input land surface temperature for the SSEBop algorithms. The other input data were taken from the AmeriFlux database. Results of statistical analysis indicated that the SSEBop model performed well in estimating ET with an R2 of 0.86 between estimated ET and eddy covariance measurements at 42 AmeriFlux tower sites during 2001–2007. It was encouraging to see that the best performance was observed for croplands, where R2 was 0.92 with a root mean square error of 13 mm/month. The uncertainties or random errors from input variables and parameters of the SSEBop model led to monthly ET estimates with relative errors less than 20% across multiple flux tower sites distributed across different biomes. This uncertainty of the SSEBop model lies within the error range of other SEB models, suggesting systematic error or bias of the SSEBop model is within the normal range. This finding implies that the simplified parameterization of the SSEBop model did not significantly affect the accuracy of the ET estimate while increasing the ease of model setup for operational applications. The sensitivity analysis indicated that the SSEBop model is most sensitive to input variables, land surface temperature (LST) and reference ET (ETo); and parameters, differential temperature (dT), and maximum ET scalar (Kmax), particularly during the non-growing season and in dry areas. In summary, the uncertainty assessment verifies that the SSEBop model is a reliable and robust method for large-area ET estimation. The SSEBop model estimates can be further improved by reducing errors in two input variables (ETo and LST) and two key parameters (Kmax and dT).

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Uncertainty analysis of the Operational Simplified Surface Energy Balance (SSEBop) model at multiple flux tower sites
Series title Journal of Hydrology
DOI 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2016.02.026
Volume 536
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center
Description 16 p.
First page 384
Last page 399
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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