A Global Assessment of Terrestrial Evapotranspiration Increase Due to Surface Water Area Change

Shengan Zhan, Chunqiao Song, Jida Wang, Yongwei Sheng, Jiping Quan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Surface water, which is changing constantly, is a crucial component in the global water cycle, as it greatly affects the water flux between the land and the atmosphere through evaporation. However, the influences of changing surface water area on the global water budget have largely been neglected. Here we estimate an extra water flux of 30.38 ± 15.51 km3/year omitted in global evaporation calculation caused by a net increase of global surface water area between periods 1984–1999 and 2000–2015. Our estimate is at a similar magnitude to the recent average annual change in global evapotranspiration assuming a stationary surface water area. It is also comparable to the estimated trends in various components of the hydrological cycle such as precipitation, discharge, groundwater depletion, and glacier melting. Our findings suggest that the omission of surface water area changes may cause considerable biases in global evaporation estimation, so an improved understanding of water area dynamics and its atmospheric coupling is crucial to reduce the uncertainty in the estimation of future global water budgets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)266-282
Number of pages17
JournalEarth's Future
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • evaporation
  • evapotranspiration
  • global
  • surface water
  • water cycle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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