Development of a global evapotranspiration algorithm based on MODIS and global meteorology data

Qiaozhen Mu, Faith Ann Heinsch, Maosheng Zhao, Steven W. Running

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1347 Scopus citations


The objective of this research is to develop a global remote sensing evapotranspiration (ET) algorithm based on Cleugh et al.'s [Cleugh, H.A., R. Leuning, Q. Mu, S.W. Running (2007) Regional evaporation estimates from flux tower and MODIS satellite data. Remote Sensing of Environment 106, page 285-304- 2007 (doi: 10.1016/j.rse.2006.07.007).] Penman-Monteith based ET (RS-PM). Our algorithm considers both the surface energy partitioning process and environmental constraints on ET. We use ground-based meteorological observations and remote sensing data from the MODerate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) to estimate global ET by (1) adding vapor pressure deficit and minimum air temperature constraints on stomatal conductance; (2) using leaf area index as a scalar for estimating canopy conductance; (3) replacing the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index with the Enhanced Vegetation Index thereby also changing the equation for calculation of the vegetation cover fraction (FC); and (4) adding a calculation of soil evaporation to the previously proposed RS-PM method. We evaluate our algorithm using ET observations at 19 AmeriFlux eddy covariance flux towers. We calculated ET with both our Revised RS-PM algorithm and the RS-PM algorithm using Global Modeling and Assimilation Office (GMAO v. 4.0.0) meteorological data and compared the resulting ET estimates with observations. Results indicate that our Revised RS-PM algorithm substantially reduces the root mean square error (RMSE) of the 8-day latent heat flux (LE) averaged over the 19 towers from 64.6 W/m2 (RS-PM algorithm) to 27.3 W/m2 (Revised RS-PM) with tower meteorological data, and from 71.9 W/m2 to 29.5 W/m2 with GMAO meteorological data. The average LE bias of the tower-driven LE estimates to the LE observations changed from 39.9 W/m2 to - 5.8 W/m2 and from 48.2 W/m2 to - 1.3 W/m2 driven by GMAO data. The correlation coefficients increased slightly from 0.70 to 0.76 with the use of tower meteorological data. We then apply our Revised RS-PM algorithm to the globe using 0.05° MODIS remote sensing data and reanalysis meteorological data to obtain the annual global ET (MODIS ET) for 2001. As expected, the spatial pattern of the MODIS ET agrees well with that of the MODIS global terrestrial gross and net primary production (MOD17 GPP/NPP), with the highest ET over tropical forests and the lowest ET values in dry areas with short growing seasons. This MODIS ET product provides critical information on the regional and global water cycle and resulting environment changes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)519-536
Number of pages18
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 28 2007


  • Evapotranspiration
  • Meteorological data
  • Remote sensing
  • Soil evaporation
  • Stomatal conductance
  • Vegetation cover fraction


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