On the validation of a coupled water and energy balance model at small catchment scales

R. P. Silberstein, M. Sivapalan, A. Wyllie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Catchment runoff is the most widely used catchment scale measurement in modelling studies, and we have a reasonable degree of confidence in its accuracy. The advent of satellites gives access to a new suite of measurements taken over a defined spatial range. These measurements, principally reflected or emitted radiation, provide hydrologists with new possibilities for quantifying the state of a catchment. Surface temperatures can be readily measured by a satellite on a scale comparable to the size of a small catchment. In this paper we show that satellite sensed temperatures can provide an important measure of catchment status, which can complement runoff measurements in water balance studies. A one-dimensional model, which couples the land surface energy balance with the soil and surface water balance is tested by comparison with runoff and with remotely sensed surface temperature measurements. Simulations have been run over four years for two small catchments which have a fairly homogeneous vegetation, one being forest and its neighbour pasture. Satellite 'surface' temperatures have been interpreted in terms of the energy balance, and used as a test of modelling accuracy. An 'effective' surface temperature is calculated as a weighted mean of temperatures of the separate soil and leaf surfaces. This modelled 'effective' temperature correlates well with Landsat TM surface temperatures. When pasture replaces forest, the model predicts a reduction in evapotranspiration of around 30%, a three-fold increase in runoff, and an increase in mean soil moisture status. The change to pasture also results in a rise in mean effective surface temperature of about 4°C, and an increase in summer diurnal temperature range from 10 to 22°C. The winter diurnal temperature range is similar for both vegetation systems. Inclusion of soil moisture variability in thermal properties results in an increase in mean daily maximum temperature of about 2°C in summer and winter, without much change in daily minima. The daily mean temperature is not significantly affected.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-168
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Sep 9 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Catchments
  • Energy
  • Modelling
  • Remote sensing
  • Water balance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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