Reference evapotranspiration variability and trends in Spain, 1961-2011

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In this study we analyzed the spatial distribution, temporal variability and trends in reference evapotranspiration (ET0) in Spain from 1961 to 2011. Twelve methods were analyzed to quantify ET0 from quality controlled and homogeneous series of various meteorological variables measured at 46 meteorological stations. Some of the models used are temperature based (e.g., Thornthwaite, Hargreaves, Linacre), whereas others are more complex and require more meteorological variables for calculation (e.g., Priestley-Taylor, Papadakis, FAO-Blaney-Criddle). The Penman-Monteith equation was used as a reference to quantify ET0, and for comparison among the other methods applied in the study. No major differences in the spatial distribution of the average ET0 were evident among the various methods. At annual and seasonal scales some of the ET0 methods requiring only temperature data for calculation provided better results than more complex methods requiring more variables. Among them the Hargreaves (HG) equation provided the best results, at both the annual and seasonal scales. The analysis of the temporal variability and trends in the magnitude of ET0 indicated that all methods show a marked increase in ET0 at the seasonal and annual time scales. Nevertheless, results obtained suggested substantial uncertainties among the methods assessed to determine ET0 changes, due to differences in temporal variability of the resulting time series, but mainly for the differences in the magnitude of change of ET0 and its spatial distribution. This suggests that ET0 trends obtained by means of methods that only require temperature data for ET0 calculations should be evaluated carefully under the current global warming scenario ​
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