Boundary-Layer Meteorology

, Volume 156, Issue 3, pp 489–499 | Cite as

On the Application of the Priestley–Taylor Relation on Sub-daily Time Scales

  • Xiaofeng Guo
  • Heping Liu
  • Kun Yang
Notes and Comments


Based on observations over a reservoir and a glacier, we investigate the sub-daily variations in the Priestley–Taylor parameter \(\alpha \) for saturated surfaces. According to the sign of the eddy-covariance fluxes of sensible heat \((H)\) and latent heat \((LE)\) (positive and negative for upward and downward transfer, respectively), measurements are organized into three heat-flux regimes. In regimes I \((H>0;\, LE>0)\) and II \((H<0;\, LE>0)\) over the water, 30-min retrievals of \(\alpha \) vary within the ranges of 1.00–1.32 and 1.24–2.04, respectively, and over glacial ice/snow surfaces, \(\alpha \) appears more variable: \(\alpha <-0.10\) and \(\alpha >1.70\) in regime II, and \(0.08<\alpha <1.0\) in regime III \((H<0;\, LE<0)\). Such variations in \(\alpha \) have practical implications for the application of the Priestley–Taylor relation on a sub-daily time scale. When adopted for estimating latent heat fluxes over this reservoir, the rule-of-thumb \(\alpha \) value of 1.26 leads to overestimates and underestimates in regimes I and II, respectively. Moreover, despite adopting locally calibrated \(\alpha \) values over the ice/snow surfaces, the Priestley–Taylor relation is found to produce significant errors in both regimes II and III, and thus is considered largely inapplicable for reliable estimations of sublimation and deposition.


Evaporation Priestley–Taylor relation Sublimation and deposition  Water, ice, and snow Water resources 



Grateful thanks are due to two anonymous reviewers who provided insightful critiques on a full-length version of this article. This study is funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant 41190083), National Science Foundation (Grant AGS-1112938), National Basic Research Program of China (Grant 2014CB447900), and National High Technology Research and Development Program (Grant 2014AA06A512). Wei Yang, Shenghai Li, and Long Zhao (Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences) provided indispensable assistance in the glacio-meteorological experiment.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Atmospheric Boundary Layer Physics and Atmospheric Chemistry, Institute of Atmospheric PhysicsChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA
  3. 3.Key Laboratory of Tibetan Environment Changes and Land Surface Processes, Institute of Tibetan Plateau ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  4. 4.CAS Center for Excellence and Innovation in Tibetan Plateau Earth System SciencesChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingPeople’s Republic of China

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