The pattern across the continental United States of evapotranspiration variability associated with water availability

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Abstract

The spatial pattern across the continental United States of the interannual variance of warm-season water-dependent evapotranspiration, a pattern of relevance to land-atmosphere feedback, cannot be measured directly. Alternative and indirect approaches to estimating the pattern, however, do exist, and given the uncertainty of each, we use several such approaches here. We first quantify the water-dependent evapotranspiration variance pattern inherent in two derived evapotranspiration datasets available fromthe literature. We then search for the pattern in proxy geophysical variables (air temperature, streamflow, and NDVI) known to have strong ties to evapotranspiration. The variances inherent in all of the different (and mostly independent) data sources show some differences but are generally strongly consistent—they all show a large variance signal down the center of the U.S., with lower variances toward the east and (for the most part) toward the west. The robustness of the pattern across the datasets suggests that it indeed represents the pattern operating in nature. Using Budyko’s hydroclimatic framework, we show that the pattern can largely be explained by the relative strength of water and energy controls on evapotranspiration across the continent.

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Koster, R. D., Salvucci, G. D., Rigden, A. J., Jung, M., Collatz, G. J., & Schubert, S. D. (2015). The pattern across the continental United States of evapotranspiration variability associated with water availability. Frontiers in Earth Science, 3. https://doi.org/10.3389/feart.2015.00035

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