Estimating Surface-Atmosphere Exchange at Regional Scales

Author: Peter Robert Isaac

Isaac, Peter Robert, 2006 Estimating Surface-Atmosphere Exchange at Regional Scales, Flinders University, School of Chemical and Physical Sciences

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This thesis examines a method for estimating the daytime fluxes of heat, water vapour and carbon dioxide at regional scales by using simple models to combine spatially resolved surface properties with bulk meteorological quantities measured at a central location. The central themes of this thesis are that the spatial and temporal variability of regional scale fluxes are contained in the surface properties and meteorology respectively and that the surface properties can be interpolated across a heterogeneous landscape using remotely sensed data. The regional scale fluxes estimated using this technique are compared to the values from three other methods and this allows some conclusions to be made regarding the relative strengths and weaknesses of each method. The surface property approach yields robust estimates of the fluxes that will be useful in researching exchange processes at regional scales, providing input parameters for, and validation of, the biosphere components of General Circulation Models and testing inventory estimates of CO2 budgets. The surface properties are derived using data from 33 aircraft flights and eight ground-based sites along a 96 km transect established during the 1995 Observations At Several Interacting Scales experiment held near Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia. Surface properties examined are the evaporative fraction (ratio of evapotranspiration to available energy), the Bowen ratio (ratio of sensible heat flux to evapotranspiration), the maximum stomatal conductance (maximum stomatal opening under optimal conditions) and the water-use efficiency (ratio of CO2 flux to evapotranspiration). Maximum stomatal conductance is calculated using a simple model of the stomatal response to light and water vapour deficit assuming soil evaporation occurs at the equilibrium rate. The diurnal trend and day-to-day variability in the surface properties is found to be significantly less than the spatial variability. All of the surface properties examined show some sensitivity to the synoptic conditions. The relationships between the surface properties and the Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) are examined using a 130 km by 50 km sub-scene from a Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper (TM) image obtained five days before the start of the experiment period. The ground-based and aircraft observations are used to calculate the source-area influencing each measurement and this is combined with the Landsat 5 TM data to produce an average, source-area weighted NDVI for each ground-based site and each aircraft location. The source-area model is important because it provides the link between the observations and the remotely sensed data by identifying the surface patch that influences the measurements. Linear relationships are found between the source-area weighted NDVI and the surface properties. The observed relationships are used to interpolate the surface properties over the region covered by the satellite image and spatial variations in water loss and CO2 uptake by the surface vegetation are identified that are not resolved by the ground-based network. Analysis of the ground-based data showed that the spatial variability of the bulk meteorological quantities used in the surface property approach was much less than the diurnal trend in these data. With the small temporal variation in the surface properties noted before, this confirms the utility of assigning the spatial and temporal variability of the fluxes to the surface properties and the meteorology respectively. The combination of surface properties derived from the aircraft data and meteorology measured at a single location at the centre of the transect shows good skill in predicting the observed fluxes. Furthermore, the discrepancies between the predictions and the observations are explained by the different source-areas of the aircraft and ground-based data and much of the bias is removed when the surface properties are scaled from the NDVI of the aircraft source-area to the NDVI of the ground-based sites. Regional scale fluxes of heat and water vapour calculated using the surface property approach agree with averages of the ground-based data and this indicates that the ground-based network was representative of the OASIS region. Estimates of regional scale CO2 fluxes are not available from the ground-based network due to the lack of measurements at the driest ground-based site but the surface property approach yields plausible values. The results demonstrate the utility of extrapolating surface properties across heterogeneous landscapes using remotely sensed data.

Keywords: surface fluxes,regional scale,ground-based,tower,aircraft,remote sensing,OASIS

Subject: Earth Sciences thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2006
School: School of Chemical and Physical Sciences
Supervisor: Associate Professor Jorg M Hacker