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Assessment of Spatiotemporal Variability of Evapotranspiration and Its Governing Factors in a Mountainous Watershed

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Evapotranspiration (ET) is a key component of the water balance, which influences hydrometeorology, water resources, carbon and other biogeochemical cycles, and ecosystem diversity. This study aims to investigate the spatio-temporal variations of ET at the East River watershed in Colorado and analyze the factors that control these variations. ET was acquired using the community land model (CLM) simulations and was compared with the values estimated using Fu's equation and a watershed-scale water balance equation. The simulation results showed that 55% of annual precipitation in the East River is lost to ET, in which 75% of the ET comes from the summer months (May to September). We also found that the contribution of transpiration to the total ET was ~50%, which is much larger than that of soil evaporation (32%) and canopy evaporation (18%). Spatial analysis indicated that the ET is greater at elevations of 2950-3200 m and lower along the river valley ( < 2750 m) and at the high elevations ( > 3900 m). A correlation analysis of factors affecting ET showed that the land elevation, air temperature, and vegetation are closely correlated and together they govern the ET spatial variability. The results also suggested that ET in areas with more finely textured soil is slightly larger than regions with coarse-texture soil. This study presents a promising approach to the assessment of ET with a high spatiotemporal resolution over watershed scales and investigates factors controlling ET spatiotemporal variations.

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