Articles | Volume 13, issue 6
Research article
03 Jun 2013
Research article |  | 03 Jun 2013

Variation in the estimations of ETo and crop water use due to the sensor accuracy of the meteorological variables

R. Moratiel, A. Martínez-Cob, and B. Latorre

Abstract. In agricultural ecosystems the use of evapotranspiration (ET) to improve irrigation water management is generally widespread. Commonly, the crop ET (ETc) is estimated by multiplying the reference crop evapotranspiration (ETo) by a crop coefficient (Kc). Accurate estimation of ETo is critical because it is the main factor affecting the calculation of crop water use and water management. The ETo is generally estimated from recorded meteorological variables at reference weather stations. The main objective of this paper was assessing the effect of the uncertainty due to random noise in the sensors used for measurement of meteorological variables on the estimation of ETo, crop ET and net irrigation requirements of grain corn and alfalfa in three irrigation districts of the middle Ebro River basin. Five scenarios were simulated, four of them individually considering each recorded meteorological variable (temperature, relative humidity, solar radiation and wind speed) and a fifth scenario combining together the uncertainty of all sensors. The uncertainty in relative humidity for irrigation districts Riegos del Alto Aragón (RAA) and Bardenas (BAR), and temperature for irrigation district Canal de Aragón y Cataluña (CAC), were the two most important factors affecting the estimation of ETo, corn ET (ETc_corn), alfalfa ET (ETc_alf), net corn irrigation water requirements (IRncorn) and net alfalfa irrigation water requirements (IRnalf). Nevertheless, this effect was never greater than ±0.5% over annual scale time. The wind speed variable (Scenario 3) was the third variable more influential in the fluctuations (±) of evapotranspiration, followed by solar radiation. Considering the accuracy for all sensors over annual scale time, the variation was about ±1% of ETo, ETc_corn, ETc_alf, IRncorn, and IRnalf. The fluctuations of evapotranspiration were higher at shorter time scale. ETo daily fluctuation remained lower than 5 % during the growing season of corn and alfalfa. This estimation fluctuation in ETo, ETc_corn, ETc_alf , IRncorn, and IRnalf at daily time scale was within an acceptable range, and it can be considered that the sensor accuracy of the meteorological variables is not significant in the estimation of ETo.