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New technique measures evaporation globally

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Posted April 12, 2013

Researchers at Columbia Engineering and Boston University have developed the first method to map evaporation globally using weather stations, which will help scientists evaluate water resource management, assess recent trends of evaporation throughout the globe, and validate surface hydrologic models in various conditions. The study was published in the April 1 online Early Edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

“This is the first time we’ve been able to map evaporation in a consistent way, using concrete measurements that are available around the world,” says Pierre Gentine, assistant professor of earth and environmental engineering at Columbia. “This is a big step forward in our understanding of how the water cycle impacts life on Earth.”

The Earth’s surface hydrologic cycle comprises precipitation, runoff, and evaporation fluctuations. Scientists can measure precipitation across the globe using rain gauges or microwave remote sensing devices. In places where streamflow measurements are available, they can also measure the runoff. But measuring evaporation has always been difficult.

“Global measurements of evaporation have been a longstanding and frustrating challenge for the hydrologic community,” says Gentine. “And now, for the first time, we show that simple weather station measurements of air temperature and humidity can be used across the globe to obtain the daily evaporation.”

Read more at: Phys.org

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