Long-term pan evaporation observations as a resource to understand the water cycle trend: case studies from Australia
Acceleration of the global water cycle over recent decades remains uncertain because of the high inter-annual variability of its components. Observations of pan evaporation (E-pan), a proxy of potential evapotranspiration (ETp), may help to identify trends in the water cycle over long periods. The complementary relationship (CR) states that ETp and actual evapotranspiration (ETa) depend on each other in a complementary manner, through land-atmosphere feedbacks in water-limited environments. Using a long-term series of E-pan observations in Australia, we estimated monthly ETa by the CR and compared our estimates with ETa measured at eddy covariance Fluxnet stations. The results confirm that our approach, entirely data-driven, can reliably estimate ETa only in water-limited conditions. Furthermore, our analysis indicated that ETa did not show any significant trend in the last 30 years, while short-term analysis may indicate a rapid climate change that is not perceived in a long-term perspective.