Evaluation of ten methods for estimating evaporation in a small high-elevation lake on the Tibetan Plateau

  • Binbin Wang
  • Yaoming Ma
  • Weiqiang Ma
  • Bob Su
  • Xiaohua Dong
Original Paper


To quantify lake evaporation and its variations in time, ten methods for estimating evaporation at a temporal resolution of 10 days over a small high-elevation lake in the Nam Co lake basin of the Tibetan Plateau (TP) were evaluated by using eddy covariance (EC) observation-based reference datasets. After examination of the consistency of the parameters used in the different methods, the ranking of the methods under different conditions are shown to be inconsistent. The Bowen ratios derived from meteorological data and EC observations are consistent, and it supports a ranking of energy-budget-based methods (including the Bowen ratio energy budget, Penman, Priestley-Taylor, Brutsaert-Stricker and DeBruin-Keijman methods) as the best when heat storage in the water can be estimated accurately. The elevation-dependent psychometric constant can explain the differences between the Priestley-Taylor and DeBruin-Keijman methods. The Dalton-type methods (Dalton and Ryan-Harleman methods) and radiation-based method (Jensen-Haise) all improve significantly after parameter optimization, with better performance by the former than the latter. The deBruin method yields the largest error due to the poor relationship between evaporation and the drying power of the air. The good performance of the Makkink method, with no significant differences before and after optimization, indicates the importance of solar radiation and air temperature in estimation of lake evaporation. The Makkink method was used for long-term evaporation estimation due to lack of water temperature observations in lakes on the TP. Lastly, long-term evaporation during the open-water period (April 6 to November 15 from 1979 to 2015) were obtained; the mean bias was only 6%. A decreasing-increasing trend in lake evaporation with a turning point in 2004 was noted, and this trend corresponds to the published decreasing-increasing trend in reference evapotranspiration on the Tibetan Plateau and can be explained by variations in related meteorological variables.



The authors would like to thank colleagues from the Nam Co station, Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, for providing the lake-level change data from Nam Co Lake. We would also like to thank the anonymous referees and the editor for their constructive comments and suggestions.

Funding information

This research has been funded by the Strategic Priority Research Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDA20060101), the Chinese Academy of Sciences (QYZDJ-SSW-DQC019), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41375009, 41661144043, 41522501, 41705005, 91637312), the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation, the “Hundred Talent Program” (Weiqiang Ma), and the ESA MOST Dragon IV programme (Monitoring Water and Energy Cycles at Climate Scale in the Third Pole Environment (CLIMATE-TPE)).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Tibetan Environment Changes and Land Surface ProcessesInstitute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijing CityChina
  2. 2.CAS Center for Excellence in Tibetan Plateau Earth SciencesChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth ObservationUniversity of TwenteEnschedeThe Netherlands
  4. 4.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  5. 5.College of Hydraulic and Environmental EngineeringChina Three Gorges UniversityYichangChina

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