Partitioning Surface Energy Balance Components in a Semi-Arid Environment

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Understanding ecosystem energy and hydrological response is important for predicting and managing future water resources under climate and land-cover changes. 

Researchers from Virginia Tech and the USGS investigated the influence of rainfall, soil, vegetation, and topography on water and energy balance in sagebrush, cheatgrass, and lodgepole pine sites in Southern Idaho. They used measurements of heat fluxes using scintillometers and eddy covariance flux pooling data from USGS, University of Idaho, and Boise State University during the growing season 2011–2012. Researchers were able to identify spatial and seasonal variability in partitioning of surface energy components, including net radiation and heat fluxes. The broader implications of this study suggest that sagebrush ecosystem regions may serve as potential recharge zones for enhancing groundwater storage in the Snake River Plains as they exhibit lower evapotranspiration rates in comparison to other ecosystems. Using field data can provide a better understanding of boundary layer fluxes which can help validate the fluxes simulated by land surface models.

Sridhar, V., Billah, M.M., Valayamkunnath, P., Zhao, W., Allen, R.G., Germino, M.J., 2019, Field-scale intercomparison analysis of ecosystems in partitioning surface energy balance components in a semi-arid environment: Ecohydrology & Hydrobiology, v. 19, no. 1, p. 24-37, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecohyd.2019.08.001.