Remote sensing datasets are increasingly being used to provide spatially explicit large scale evapotranspiration (ET) estimates. Extensive evaluation of such large scale estimates is necessary before they can be used in various applications. In this study, two monthly MODIS 1 km ET products, MODIS global ET (MOD16) and Operational Simplified Surface Energy Balance (SSEBop) ET, are validated over the conterminous United States at both point and basin scales. Point scale validation was performed using eddy covariance FLUXNET ET (FLET) data (2001–2007) aggregated by year, land cover, elevation and climate zone. Basin scale validation was performed using annual gridded FLUXNET ET (GFET) and annual basin water balance ET (WBET) data aggregated by various hydrologic unit code (HUC) levels. Point scale validation using monthly data aggregated by years revealed that the MOD16 ET and SSEBop ET products showed overall comparable annual accuracies. For most land cover types, both ET products showed comparable results. However, SSEBop showed higher performance for Grassland and Forest classes; MOD16 showed improved performance in the Woody Savanna class. Accuracy of both the ET products was also found to be comparable over different climate zones. However, SSEBop data showed higher skill score across the climate zones covering the western United States. Validation results at different HUC levels over 2000–2011 using GFET as a reference indicate higher accuracies for MOD16 ET data. MOD16, SSEBop and GFET data were validated against WBET (2000–2009), and results indicate that both MOD16 and SSEBop ET matched the accuracies of the global GFET dataset at different HUC levels. Our results indicate that both MODIS ET products effectively reproduced basin scale ET response (up to 25% uncertainty) compared to CONUS-wide point-based ET response (up to 50–60% uncertainty) illustrating the reliability of MODIS ET products for basin-scale ET estimation. Results from this research would guide the additional parameter refinement required for the MOD16 and SSEBop algorithms in order to further improve their accuracy and performance for agro-hydrologic applications.
Additional publication details
A comprehensive evaluation of two MODIS evapotranspiration products over the conterminous United States: using point and gridded FLUXNET and water balance ET
Remote Sensing of Environment
Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center