Data from nine widely distributed climate stations were used to assess the distribution of potential evapotranspiration on the tropical South Pacific island of Tutuila, American Samoa. Seasonal patterns of climate data in this study differed in detail from available long-term data because the monitoring period of each station in this study was only 1 to 5 years, but overall climate conditions during the monitoring period (1999-2004) are representative of normal conditions.
Potential evapotranspiration shows a diurnal pattern. On average, potential evapotranspiration in the daytime, when net radiation is the dominant controlling factor, constitutes 90 percent or more of the total daily potential evapotranspiration at each station. Positive heat advection from the ocean contributes to potential evapotranspiration at at least one station, and possibly other stations, in this study.
Seasonal variation of potential evapotranspiration is linked to seasonal daylight duration. Spatial variation of potential evapotranspiration, however, is linked primarily to orographic cloud cover. Potential evapotranspiration on Tutuila is lowest in the interior of the island, where rainfall is higher, cloud cover is more frequent, and net radiation is lower than along the coasts. Potential evapotranspiration is highest along the southern and eastern coasts of the island, where rainfall is lower and cloud cover less frequent. The gradient from areas of high to low potential evapotranspiration is steepest in November and December, when island-wide potential evapotranspiration is highest, and less steep in June and July, when island-wide potential evapotranspiration is lowest.
Comparison of potential evapotranspiration to rainfall indicates that evapotranspiration processes on Tutuila have the potential to remove from 23 to 61 percent of the water brought by rainfall. In lower-rainfall coastal locations, potential evapotranspiration can be 50 percent or more of rainfall, whereas in higher-rainfall interior locations potential evapotranspiration is less than 30 percent of rainfall.
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USGS Numbered Series
Potential Evapotranspiration on Tutuila, American Samoa