Global estimates of daily evapotranspiration using SMAP surface and root-zone soil moisture

Youngwook Kim, Hotaek Park, John S. Kimball, Andreas Colliander, Matthew F. McCabe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The interplay between soil moisture and evapotranspiration modulates the water available to sustain soil evaporation and influences canopy stomatal conductance controls on vegetation transpiration. Modeling this behavior remains challenging. Indeed, satellite remote sensing based Penman-Monteith (PM) ET models tend not to directly consider soil moisture constraints on evaporation and transpiration due to a lack of consistent soil moisture data. To address this issue, we modified a PM model to include satellite enhanced surface and root zone soil moisture from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission. The resulting model was used to produce global 9-km daily ET estimates, including contributing fluxes from soil evaporation, transpiration and evaporation of canopy-intercepted precipitation. The global PM ET estimates were assessed using in situ sap flow and AmeriFlux measurements, upscaled FLUXCOM latent heat flux, as well as against other independent global ET data products (GLEAM, GLDAS, SSEBop, and LandFlux-EVAL). The modelled transpiration showed similar seasonal variation and positive correlation to in situ sap flow measurements available from several forest sites (R2 = 0.85; p < 0.01). When compared against AmeriFlux data, the PM ET estimates showed favorable agreement with annual ET measurements extracted from 34 diverse sites (R2 = 0.58; p < 0.01; RMSE = 227 mm yr−1). The PM 8-day ET results also reflected a similar hemispheric seasonality as the global FLUXCOM record (R2 = 0.94–0.98; p < 0.01), while comparisons against other global ET products showed moderate mean differences of between 49 and 107 mm yr−1 (11–25%) over the global domain. Our PM ET estimates varied up to 52% in response to SMAP surface soil moisture dynamics, displaying stronger surface (0–5 cm depth) than root zone (0–100 cm) soil moisture sensitivity. While PM ET sensitivity to soil moisture was greater in arid climate regions, it was also significant in humid climate zones, with analysis indicating that the inclusion of soil moisture predominantly acts as a sustaining influence on ET, especially in moisture limited drylands. PM ET sensitivity to temperature was stronger in humid forest regions relative to other climate and land cover regimes. Overall, the model results clarify the influence of soil moisture heterogeneity on the global ET pattern as informed by satellite-based estimates of surface and root zone soil moisture. Potential enhancements to the spatial and vertical resolution of soil moisture inputs are expected to enable further ET improvements through more realistic model representation of soil and plant available water.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113803
Pages (from-to)113803
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
StatePublished - Dec 1 2023


  • Evaporation
  • SMAP L4_SM product
  • Soil moisture active passive mission
  • Transpiration


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