Modelling annual evapotranspiration in a semi-arid, African savanna: functional convergence theory, MODIS LAI and the Penman–Monteith equation

  • Anthony R Palmer
  • Craig Weideman
  • Andiswa Finca
  • Colin S Everson
  • Niall Hanan
  • William Ellery
Keywords: LAI, modelling, plant production, remote sensing


Accurately measuring evapotranspiration (ET) is essential if we are to derive reasonable estimates of production and water use for semi-arid savannas. Estimates of ET are also important in defining the health of an ecosystem and the quantity of water used by the vegetation when preparing a catchment-scale water balance. We derived ET0 from an automatic weather station 30 km west of Skukuza, Kruger National Park, South Africa using the Penman– Monteith equation, and then used the MODIS LAI to inform the model of canopy phenological dynamics. This result was compared with 173 days of ET measurements from the eddy covariance (ETec) system near Skukuza in 2007 as well as from the ET recorded by a large-aperture scintillometer at the same site in 2005. The model compared favourably with both sets of measured data and, when used independently of the eddy covariance data, ETMODIS predicted an annual ET of 378 mm in 2007 for the semi-arid savanna around the Skukuza flux site.

Keywords: LAI, modelling, plant production, remote sensing


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9380
print ISSN: 1022-0119