Evapotranspiration (ET) represents one of the essential processes controlling the exchange of energy by terrestrial vegetation, providing a strong connection between energy and water fluxes. Different methodologies have been developed in order to measure it at different spatial scales, ranging from individual plants to an entire watershed. In the last few years, several methods and approaches based on remotely sensed data have been developed over different ecosystems for the estimation of ET. In the present work, we outline the correlation between ET measured at four eddy covariance (EC) sites in Italy (situated either in forest or in grassland ecosystems) and (1) the emissivity contrast index (ECI) based on emissivity data from thermal infrared spectral channels of the MODIS and ASTER satellite sensors (CAMEL data-set); (2) the water deficit index (WDI), defined as the difference between the surface and dew point temperature modeled by the ECMWF (European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts) data. The analysis covers a time-series of 1 to 7 years depending on the site. The results showed that both the ECI and WDI correlate to the ET calculated through EC. In the relationship WDI-ET, the coefficient of determination ranges, depending on the study area, between 0.5 and 0.9, whereas it ranges between 0.5 and 0.7 when ET was correlated to the ECI. The slope and the sign of the latter relationship is influenced by the vegetation habitat, the snow cover (particularly in winter months) and the environmental heterogeneity of the area (calculated in this study through the concept of the spectral variation hypothesis using Rao’s Q heterogeneity index).
- Rao’s Q index
- spectral variation hypothesis
- thermal infrared