Regional evapotranspiration from an image-based implementation of the Surface Temperature Initiated Closure (STIC1.2) model and its validation across an aridity gradient in the conterminous US
Recent studies have highlighted the need for im- proved characterizations of aerodynamic conductance and temperature ( g A and T 0 ) in thermal remote-sensing-based surface energy balance (SEB) models to reduce uncertain- ties in regional-scale evapotranspiration (ET) mapping. By integrating radiometric surface temperature ( T R ) into the Penman–Monteith (PM) equation and finding analytical so- lutions of g A and T 0 , this need was recently addressed by the Surface Temperature Initiated Closure (STIC) model. However, previous implementations of STIC were confined to the ecosystem-scale using flux tower observations of infrared temperature. This study demonstrates the first regional-scale implementation of the most recent version of the STIC model (STIC1.2) that integrates the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) derived T R and an- cillary land surface variables in conjunction with NLDAS (North American Land Data Assimilation System) atmospheric variables into a combined structure of the PM and Shuttleworth–Wallace (SW) framework for estimating ET at 1 km × 1 km spatial resolution. Evaluation of STIC1.2 at 13 core AmeriFlux sites covering a broad spectrum of climates and biomes across an aridity gradient in the conterminous US suggests that STIC1.2 can provide spatially explicit ET maps with reliable accuracies from dry to wet extremes. When observed ET from one wet, one dry, and one normal precipitation year from all sites were combined, STIC1.2 explained 66 % of the variability in observed 8-day cumulative ET with a root mean square error (RMSE) of 7.4 mm/8-day, mean absolute error (MAE) of 5 mm/8-day, and percent bias (PBIAS) of − 4 %. These error statistics showed relatively better accuracies than a widely used but previous version of the SEB-based Surface Energy Balance System (SEBS) model, which utilized a simple NDVI-based parameterization of surface roughness ( z OM ), and the PM-based MOD16 ET. SEBS was found to overestimate (PBIAS = 28 %) and MOD16 was found to underestimate ET (PBIAS = − 26 %). The per- formance of STIC1.2 was better in forest and grassland ecosystems as compared to cropland (20 % underestimation) and woody savanna (40 % overestimation). Model inter- comparison suggested that ET differences between the models are robustly correlated with g A and associated roughness length estimation uncertainties which are intrinsically connected to T R uncertainties, vapor pressure deficit ( D A ), and vegetation cover. A consistent performance of STIC1.2 in a broad range of hydrological and biome categories, as well as the capacity to capture spatio-temporal ET signatures across an aridity gradient, points to the potential for this simpli- fied analytical model for near-real-time ET mapping from regional to continental scales.