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Theses Doctoral

Multiscale Imaging of Evapotranspiration

Sousa, Daniel John

Evapotranspiration (ET; evaporation + transpiration) is central to a wide range of biological, chemical, and physical processes in the Earth system. Accurate remote sensing of ET is challenging due to the interrelated and generally scale dependent nature of the physical factors which contribute to the process. The evaporation of water from porous media like sands and soils is an important subset of the complete ET problem. Chapter 1 presents a laboratory investigation into this question, examining the effects of grain size and composition on the evolution of drying sands. The effects of composition are found to be 2-5x greater than the effects of grain size, indicating that differences in heating caused by differences in reflectance may dominate hydrologic differences caused by grain size variation. In order to relate the results of Chapter 1 to the satellite image archive, however, the question of information loss between hyperspectral (measurements at 100s of wavelength intervals) laboratory measurements and multispectral (≤ 12 wavelength intervals) satellite images must be addressed. Chapter 2 focuses on this question as applied to substrate materials such as sediment, soil, rock, and non-photosynthetic vegetation. The results indicate that the continuum that is resolved by multispectral sensors is sufficient to resolve the gradient between sand-rich and clay-rich soils, and that this gradient is also a dominant feature in hyperspectral mixing spaces where the actual absorptions can be resolved. Multispectral measurements can be converted to biogeophysically relevant quantities using spectral mixture analysis (SMA). However, retrospective multitemporal analysis first requires cross-sensor calibration of the mixture model. Chapter 3 presents this calibration, allowing multispectral image data to be used interchangeably throughout the Landsat 4-8 archive. In addition, a theoretical explanation is advanced for the observed superior scaling properties of SMA-derived fraction images over spectral indices. The physical quantities estimated by the spectral mixture model are then compared to simultaneously imaged surface temperature, as well as to the derived parameters of ET Fraction and Moisture Availability. SMA-derived vegetation abundance is found to produce substantially more informative ET maps, and SMA-derived substrate fraction is found to yield a surprisingly strong linear relationship with surface temperature. These results provide context for agricultural applications. Chapter 5 investigates the question of mapping and monitoring rice agricultural using optical and thermal satellite image time series. Thermal image time series are found to produce more accurate maps of rice presence/absence, but optical image time series are found to produce more accurate maps of rice crop timing. Chapter 6 takes a more global approach, investigating the spatial structure of agricultural networks for a diverse set of landscapes. Surprisingly consistent scaling relations are found. These relations are assessed in the context of a network-based approach to land cover analysis, with potential implications for the scale dependence of ET estimates. In sum, this thesis present a novel approach to improving ET estimation based on a synthesis of complementary laboratory measurements, satellite image analysis, and field observations. Alone, each of these independent sources of information provides novel insights. Viewed together, these insights form the basis of a more accurate and complete geophysical understanding of the ET phenomenon.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Earth and Environmental Sciences
Thesis Advisors
Small, Christopher
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 26, 2019