Testing three approaches to estimate soil evaporation through a dry soil layer in a semi-arid area

E. Balugani*, M.W. Lubczynski, C. van der Tol, K. Metselaar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Bare soils and grasslands in arid and semi-arid conditions constitute a large portion of the earth surface. Evaporation, which is the main component of the water balance in these conditions, often takes place through a dry soil layer (DSL). There is no scientific agreement yet on the DSL effects on evaporation rates. The implementations of three conceptual models of DSL-evaporation were tested for the simulation of evaporation rates in a semi-arid study area in Central Spain: (i) the daily-average model, based on the assumption that the daily average vapour transport in a DSL can be represented in analogy to isothermal liquid flow; (ii) the numerical model solving the Richards equation, in this case HYDRUS1D was used; and (iii) the pore-scale model, based on soil column experiments in laboratory conditions. The evaporation rates estimated by the three conceptual models for semi-arid field conditions were compared with the evaporation rates measured by an eddy covariance tower in the same area. The results indicate that the daily-average conceptual model assumption, in which the DSL has no effects on evaporation, does not hold in very dry conditions. The numerical model solving the Richards equation was not able to simulate the effects of the DSL on evaporation rates. The evaporation estimates obtained by the pore-scale conceptual model were closest to the eddy covariance measurements during the dry season, however this model was applicable only to the relatively steady evaporation conditions during afternoons and only assuming spatially constant DSL thickness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405-419
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


  • Arid
  • Dry soil layer
  • Semi-arid
  • Soil evaporation
  • Water vapour flow


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