Using MODIS Weekly Evapotranspiration to Monitor Drought

The Science

This paper describes new, publicly available, high frequency (8 day), 1km, satellite-based estimates of evapotranspiration at the global scale that was assessed on many continents in tropical, temperate, and boreal ecosystems.

The Impact

This approach allows rapid, high-frequency, accurate estimates of evapotranspiration across the globe. The applications are extensive and range from forecasting to policymaking to simulation.


Models and land managers require estimates of global evapotranspiration for drought impact predictions. The approach developed in this paper allows rapid and precise estimates of evapotranspiration at the global scale at the nearly weekly temporal resolution. The approach validated well in a global test. This approach will be highly valued by both modelers, who need data for evaluation of their predictions, and land managers, who need data to assess water-stress impacts on ecosystems.

Principal Investigator(s)

Nate McDowell
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory


Funding was provided by Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiments (NGEE)–Tropics project  of the Office of Biological and Environmental Research, within the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, and by Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Laboratory-Directed Research and Development.


Mu, Q., M. Zhao, S.W. Running, J.S. Kimball, N.G. McDowell.. “Using MODIS weekly evapotranspiration to monitor drought.” Proceedings SPIE 9975, Remote Sensing and Modeling of Ecosystems for Sustainability XIII, 997502 (September 2016). [DOI:10.1117/12.2237749].