American Society of Civil Engineers

Estimating Evaporation from Bare Soil using Soil Moisture Data

by Francesca Ventura, (Researcher, Depte. of Agro-environmental Sci. and Technol., Univ. of Bologna, via Fanin 44, 40127, Bologna, Italy. E-mail:, Richard L. Snyder, (Extension Biometeorologist, Dept. of Land Air and Water Res., Univ. of California, One Shields Ave., Davis, CA 95616. E-mail:, and Khaled M. Bali, (Farm Advisor, Univ. of California Cooperative Extension, Imperial County, 1050 EAst Holton Rd., Holtville, CA 92250. E-mail:

Journal of Irrigation and Drainage Engineering, Vol. 132, No. 2, March/April 2006, pp. 153-158, (doi:

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Document type: Journal Paper
Abstract: A method is presented that uses continuous soil moisture measurements and hourly reference evapotranspiration data to estimate a soil hydraulic factor (β) for modeling soil evaporation. The β factor is used to assess the end of the energy limited soil evaporation phase (Stage 1) and the evaporation rate during the soil hydraulic limited phase (Stage 2) of a two-stage soil evaporation model. A previously developed and tested method to determine β uses an energy balance approach with sensible heat flux density estimated using the surface renewal method to obtain the continuous soil evaporation. A new method is presented, which uses a hydroprobe soil moisture measuring device to estimate the continuous soil evaporation. The estimation of evaporation with soil moisture sensors was simpler and less expensive when compared to the energy balance technique. The methods, evaluated in two field experiments, showed good agreement with evaporation data. Using the evaporation model and β derived from either method provided a good estimate of measured soil evaporation. Modeled daily soil evaporation, using either energy balance or soil measurements to obtain β, gave a root-mean-square error of 0.6 mm day-1 when compared with soil evaporation measured using the energy balance method. When daily soil evaporation from soil moisture measurements was compared with soil evaporation estimated from energy balance measurements, the root-mean-square error was 1.3 mm day-1. Direct soil monitoring method had bigger error, but the method is less costly.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Soil properties
Soil water