Comparison of real evapotranspiration measured by weighing lysimeters with simulations based on the Penman formula and a crop growth model

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Although the quantification of real evapotranspiration (ETr) is a prerequisite for an appropriate estimation of the water balance, precision and uncertainty of such a quantification are often unknown. In our study, we tested a combined growth and soil water balance model for analysing the temporal dynamics of ETr. Simulated ETr, soil water storage and drainage rates were compared with those measured by 8 grass-covered weighable lysimeters for a 3-year period (January 1, 1996 to December 31, 1998). For the simulations, a soil water balance model based on the Darcy-equation and a physiological-based growth model for grass cover for the calculation of root water uptake were used. Four lysimeters represented undisturbed sandy soil monoliths and the other four were undisturbed silty-clay soil monoliths. The simulated ETr-rates underestimated the higher ETr-rates observed in the summer periods. For some periods in early and late summer, the results were indicative for oasis effects with lysimeter-measured ETr-rates higher than corresponding calculated rates of potential grass reference evapotranspiration. Despite discrepancies between simulated and observed lysimeter drainage, the simulation quality for ETr and soil water storage was sufficient in terms of the Nash-Sutcliffe index, the modelling efficiency index, and the root mean squared error. The use of a physiological-based growth model improved the ETr estimations significantly.

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