Landscape and Climatic Influences on Actual Evapotranspiration and Available Water Using the Operational Simplified Surface Energy Balance (SSEBop) Model in Eastern Bernalillo County, New Mexico, 2015

Scientific Investigations Report 2020-5095
Prepared in cooperation with the Bernalillo County Public Works Division
By: , and 



The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Bernalillo County Public Works Division, conducted a 1-year study in 2015 to assess the spatial and temporal distribution of evapotranspiration (ET) and available water within the East Mountain area in Bernalillo County, New Mexico. ET and available water vary spatiotemporally because of complex interactions among environmental factors, including vegetation characteristics, soil characteristics, topography, and climate.

Precipitation data from the Parameter-Elevation Regressions on Independent Slopes Model (PRISM) (P) were used in conjunction with actual ET (ETa) data from the Operational Simplified Surface Energy Balance (SSEBop) model to estimate available water (P ETa) at 100-meter (m) resolution in the study area. Maps, descriptive statistics, boxplots, regression analyses (continuous data), and multiple comparison tests (categorical data) were used to characterize P, ETa, and available water and their relations to topographic, soil, and vegetation datasets in the East Mountain area. Five categories of the natural land-cover type (evergreen forest, shrub, herbaceous, deciduous forest, and mixed forest) and four categories of developed land-cover type specific to residential intensity (developed open, developed low, developed medium, and developed high) were analyzed individually and in interaction with multiple elevation, tree canopy, and soil texture classes.

Annual mean P in 2015 in the East Mountain area was 608 millimeters (mm), and annual mean ETa was 543 mm (89 percent of annual P in 2015), indicating that in 2015, a spatial mean of about 65 mm of water was available for runoff, soil moisture replenishment, or groundwater recharge. Monthly ETa was greatest in July and smallest in January. The intervening months did not show smooth temporal or consistent spatial changes from month to month. Months with lower ETa (January to March, October to December) also tended to have greater available water, indicating that soil moisture (water supply) and potential ET (water demand) may have been out of phase.

Regression analyses showed that monthly ETa data had the highest correlation with annual ETa among the atmospheric, topographic, soil, or vegetation datasets, particularly during the early and late growing season (March, April, May, and September). In contrast, monthly P was highly variable and not as highly correlated with annual ETa. Among landscape variables, correlations with annual ETa were highest for tree canopy cover (coefficient of determination [R2] = 0.46). Correlations between ETa and other landscape variables were lower (R2 = 0.06–0.19): available soil water in the top 100 centimeters, soil bulk density of layer 1, slope, sand content of soil layer 1, soil depth, available soil water in the top 25 centimeters, leaf area index, aspect eastness, and elevation. Evergreen forest areas had the highest annual median ETa, followed by mixed forest, open residential areas, and deciduous forest. Available water typically was higher in landcover types with lower ETa: herbaceous cover, followed by deciduous forest, high-intensity developed areas, and shrub. Deciduous forest had the second highest median available water, despite having the fourth highest ETa, because deciduous forest had greater P than most other areas. Annual median ETa typically was greatest in the second highest elevation band (2,401–2,800 m above the North American Vertical Datum of 1988 [NAVD 88]), and lower in the highest elevation band (2,801–3,254 m above NAVD 88), despite having greater P, likely because of decreased tree canopy cover or a shift from evergreen to deciduous trees at the highest elevations.

Annual median ETa increased with tree canopy cover, regardless of landcover type. ETa correlation was higher with tree canopy than with leaf area index or normalized difference vegetation index. This result indicates that it is important to include the thermal band (from satellite multispectral data) in vegetation indices used to describe ETa, perhaps to account for the influence of energy limitation or water limitation on ET. Of all natural landcover types, finer soils had the most available water, whereas coarser soils had the least available water. Relations of soil type with PETa were different than with ETa, indicating ET and available water have a complex response to differences in soil type. Further modeling would be useful in determining soils’ infiltration, storage, conductivity, and plant-water availability relations to individual storms for each position in the landscape, as well as the corresponding effects of these processes on ET and available water.

The best multivariate linear model for annual ETa had an R2 value of 0.62. Monthly ETa models had R2 values between 0.16 and 0.65. Models usually, but not always, performed best during the growing season. These results indicate that even the best multivariate linear models cannot explain a notable amount of the variability in ET. The monthly ETa models with the highest correlations (August and September) followed a July having almost twice the mean precipitation for July (1981–2010), which indicates that a soil-moisture variable is needed to more accurately model monthly ETa. Further study is needed to better characterize this system, the variables that affect ET and available water, and the partitioning of available water into runoff, soil moisture storage, and groundwater recharge.

Suggested Citation

Douglas-Mankin, K.R., McCutcheon, R.J., Mitchell, A.C., and Senay, G.B., 2020, Landscape and climatic influences on actual evapotranspiration and available water using the Operational Simplified Surface Energy Balance (SSEBop) Model in eastern Bernalillo County, New Mexico, 2015: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2020–5095, 40 p.,

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Materials and Methods
  • Climate in the East Mountain Area for the Study Period, 2015
  • ETa and Available Water in the East Mountain Area
  • Spatial and Temporal Variability of ETa and Available Water
  • Landscape and Climatic Effects on ETa and Available Water
  • Summary and Conclusions
  • References Cited

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Landscape and climatic influences on actual evapotranspiration and available water using the Operational Simplified Surface Energy Balance (SSEBop) Model in eastern Bernalillo County, New Mexico, 2015
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2020-5095
DOI 10.3133/sir20205095
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center (Geography), New Mexico Water Science Center
Description x, 40 p.
Country United States
State New Mexico
County Bernalillo County
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
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