A nonlinear function approach for the normalized complementary relationship evaporation model that is different from the methodology maintaining the symmetric complementary relationship with appropriate definitions of potential and wet-environment evaporation is proposed and verified. This approach employs the definitions used in the advection-aridity model, wherein the potential is estimated using the Penman equation. Normalized by Penman potential evaporation, the complementary relationship model is expressed as a function describing the relationship between the evaporation ratio (the ratio of the actual to the Penman potential evaporation) and the proportion of the radiation term in Penman potential evaporation. The new nonlinear function proposed in the current study is approximately equivalent to the advection-aridity and the modified Granger models under conditions that are neither too wet nor too dry, but is more reasonable under arid and wet conditions. The new nonlinear function model performs well in estimating actual evaporation, as verified by the observed data from four sites under different land covers. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.