A rational function approach for estimating mean annual evapotranspiration



[1] Mean annual evapotranspiration from a catchment is determined largely by precipitation and potential evapotranspiration; characteristics of the catchment (e.g., soil, topography, etc.) play only a secondary role. It has been shown that the ratio of mean annual potential evapotranspiration to precipitation (referred as the index of dryness) can be used to estimate mean annual evapotranspiration by using one additional parameter. This study evaluates the effects of climatic and catchment characteristics on the partitioning of mean annual precipitation into evapotranspiration using a rational function approach, which was developed based on phenomenological considerations. Over 470 catchments worldwide with long-term records of precipitation, potential evapotranspiration, and runoff were considered, and results show that model estimates of mean annual evapotranspiration agree well with observed evapotranspiration taken as the difference between precipitation and runoff. The mean absolute error between modeled and observed evapotranspiration was 54 mm, and the model was able to explain 89% of the variance with a slope of 1.00 through the origin. This indicates that the index of dryness is the most significant variable in determining mean annual evapotranspiration. Results also suggest that forested catchments tend to show higher evapotranspiration than grassed catchments and their evapotranspiration ratio (evapotranspiration divided by precipitation) is most sensitive to changes in catchment characteristics for regions with the index of dryness around 1.0. Additionally, a stepwise regression analysis was performed for over 270 Australian catchments where detailed information of vegetation cover, precipitation characteristics, catchment slopes, and plant available water capacity was available. It is shown that apart from the index of dryness, average storm depth, plant available water capacity, and storm arrival rate are also significant.