• pan evaporation;
  • hydrology;
  • atmospheric boundary layer;
  • climate change

[1] Decreasing trends in pan evaporation are widely observed across the world as a response of the climate system to changes in temperature, precipitation, incoming radiation and wind speed. Nevertheless, we only partially understand how trends in actual evapotranspiration are linked to those trends. Here, we use a model to show that regulation of the near-surface temperature and humidity by land-atmosphere feedbacks results in a strong connection between pan evaporation, actual evapotranspiration and vapor pressure deficit (VPD) depending on the climate forcings. When climate change occurs, the feedbacks direct the system towards a different combination of the three variables. If we know the trends in pan evaporation, VPD and wind speed, we can therefore infer the change in the forcings and estimate the trend in actual evapotranspiration.