, Volume 97, Issue 1-2, pp 193-214
Date: 04 Sep 2009

A critical overview of pan evaporation trends over the last 50 years

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Despite the observed increases in global average temperature, observations across the world show that the rate of pan evaporation at a regional scale has been steadily decreasing over the past 50 years. This is known as the pan evaporation paradox. This paper reviews current reported pan evaporation trends, examines available theoretical explanations about this “paradox”, and discusses current research gaps and priorities. It concludes that: (1) three major potential causes of pan evaporation, solar radiation, vapour pressure deficit (VPD) and wind speed, have been changing in the last 50 years. The magnitude of changes and importance of each of these three causes varies from region to region, as does the pan evaporation trend, although overall there is a decreasing trend. (2) Currently two existing theories explaining the pan evaporation trends have limits and are only valid in some specific regions and seasons. Neither of them provides a fundamental physical-based theory that could be applied everywhere. (3) Further investigations are needed before we can fully understand the global evapotranspiration trend in global warming scenarios.