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50 Estimation of the Surface Energy Balance

Part 5. Remote Sensing

  1. Zhongbo Su

Published Online: 15 APR 2006

DOI: 10.1002/0470848944.hsa068

Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences

Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences

How to Cite

Su, Z. 2006. Estimation of the Surface Energy Balance. Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences. 5:50.

Author Information

  1. International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC), Enschede, The Netherlands

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 APR 2006


Radiation and latent and sensible heating are among the most important processes in land–atmosphere exchanges. Hence, quantitative understanding and accurate estimation of these fluxes at large scales are imperative for research and applications in areas ranging from numerical weather forecast, climate research, water cycle study, to water resources management, sustainable agricultural production, and ecological conservation. Quantitative remote sensing is probably the only efficient and economically viable technology to provide regional to global radiometric observations of several physical quantities that are relevant to the estimation of these fluxes. This article examines the physical principles underlying the radiation and turbulent heating, along with exploring the possibilities and difficulties for estimation of these fluxes using remote sensing measurements. Past efforts, recent progresses are reviewed, and future research needs are identified. In particular, the Surface Energy Balance System(SEBS), recently developed in Wageningen, is introduced and its strengths and weakness are analyzed in view of future space-borne sensor systems. Several applications derived on the basis of SEBS, including estimation of turbulent heat fluxes, evaporative fraction and actual evaporation, estimation of relative soil moisture, and drought monitoring are discussed.


  • remote sensing;
  • surface fluxes;
  • surface energy balance;
  • net radiation;
  • sensible heating;
  • latent heating;
  • evaporation;
  • temperature;
  • roughness;
  • SEBS