Uncertain Benefits of Using Remotely Sensed Evapotranspiration for Streamflow Estimation—Insights From a Randomized, Large-Sample Experiment

Journal Article
Water Resources Management, 2024
Hong Xuan Do, Hung T.T. Nguyen, Vinh Ngoc Tran, Manh-Hung Le, Binh Quang Nguyen, Hung T. Pham, Tu Hoang Le, Doan Van Binh, Thanh Duc Dang, Hoang Tran, Tam V. Nguyen
AbstractRemotely sensed evapotranspiration (ETRS) shows promise for enhancing hydrological models, especially in regions lacking in situ streamflow observations. However, model calibration studies showed conflicting results regarding the ability of ETRS products to improve streamflow simulation. Rather than relying on model calibration, here we produce the first randomized experiment that explores the full streamflow–ET skill distribution, and also the first probabilistic assessment of the value of different global ETRS products for streamflow simulation. Using 280,000 randomized SWAT (Soil and Water Assessment Tool) model runs across seven catchments and four ETRS products, we show that the relationship between ET and streamflow skills is complex, and simultaneous improvement in both skills is only possible in a limited range. Parameter sensitivity analysis indicates that the most sensitive parameters can have opposite contributions to ET and streamflow skills, leading to skill trade-offs. Conditional probability assessment reveals that models with good ET skills are likely to produce good streamflow skills, but not vice versa. We suggest that randomized experiments such as ours should be performed before model calibration to determine whether using ETRS is worthwhile, and to help in interpreting the calibration results.