Evapotranspiration (ET) is one of the most important components in the hydrological cycle, and a key variable in hydrological modelling and water resources management. However, understanding the impacts of spatial variability in ET and the appropriate scale at which ET data should be incorporated into hydrological models, particularly at the regional scale, is often overlooked. This is in contrast to dealing with the spatial variability in rainfall data where existing guidance is widely available. This paper assesses the impacts of scale on the estimation of reference ET (ETo) by comparing data from individual weather stations against values derived from three national datasets, at varying resolutions. These include the UK Climate Impacts Programme 50 km climatology (UKCP50), the UK Met Office 5 km climatology (UKMO5) and the regional values published in the Agricultural Climate of England and Wales (ACEW). The national datasets were compared against the individual weather station data and the UKMO5 was shown to provide the best estimate of ETo at a given site. The potential impacts on catchment modelling were then considered by mapping variance in ETo to show how geographical location and catchment size can have a major impact, with small lowland catchments having much higher variance than those with much larger areas or in the uplands. Some important implications for catchment hydrological modelling are highlighted.
- water resources