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Earth System Science Data The Data Publishing Journal
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Review article
06 Feb 2018
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of this manuscript was accepted for the journal Earth System Science Data (ESSD) and is expected to appear here in due course.
Historical gridded reconstruction of potential evapotranspiration for the UK
Maliko Tanguy1, Christel Prudhomme2,3,1, Katie Smith1, and Jamie Hannaford1 1NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Maclean Building, Benson Lane, Crowmarsh Gifford, Wallingford, Oxon, OX10 8BB, UK
2European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, Shinfield Road, Reading, RG2 9AX, UK
3Department of Geography, Loughborough University, Loughborough, LE11 3TU, UK
Abstract. Potential Evapotranspiration (PET) is a necessary input data for most hydrological models and is usually needed at a daily or shorter time-step. An accurate estimation of PET requires many input climate variables which are in most cases not available prior to the 1960s for the UK, nor indeed most parts of the world. Therefore, when applying hydrological models for reconstructing earlier periods, modellers have to rely on PET estimation derived from simplified methods. Given that only monthly observed temperature data is readily available for the late 19th and early 20th century at a national scale for the UK, the objective of this work was to derive the best possible UK-wide gridded PET dataset with the limited data available.

To that end, firstly, a combination of (i) seven temperature-based PET equations, (ii) four different calibration approaches and (iii) seven input temperature data were evaluated against a gridded daily PET product based on the physically-based Penman-Monteith equation (the CHESS PET dataset), the rationale being that this provides a reliable ground-truth PET dataset for evaluation purposes, given that no directly observed, distributed PET datasets exist. The performance of the models was also compared to the simplest possible estimation of PET (naïve method) in the absence of any available climate data, the CHESS PET daily long term average (the period from 1961 to 1990 was chosen for this study), or CHESS-PET daily climatology. The analysis revealed that the type of calibration and the input temperature dataset had only a minor effect in the accuracy of the PET estimations at catchment scale. From the seven equations tested, only the calibrated version of the McGuinness-Bordne equation was able to outperform the naïve method and was therefore used to derive the gridded, reconstructed dataset. The equation was calibrated using 43 catchments across Great Britain.

The dataset produced is a 5-km gridded PET dataset for the period 1891 to 2015, using as input data for the PET equation the Met Office 5-km monthly gridded temperature data available for that time period, which was disaggregated to daily temperature using pchip (piecewise cubic hermite interpolating polynomial) method. The dataset includes daily and monthly PET grids and is complemented with a suite of mapped performance metrics to help users assess the quality of the data spatially. The data can be accessed here:

Citation: Tanguy, M., Prudhomme, C., Smith, K., and Hannaford, J.: Historical gridded reconstruction of potential evapotranspiration for the UK, Earth Syst. Sci. Data Discuss.,, in review, 2018.
Maliko Tanguy et al.

Data sets

Historic Gridded Potential Evapotranspiration (PET) based on temperature-based equation McGuinness-Bordne calibrated for the UK (1891-2015) M. Tanguy, C. Prudhomme, K. Smith, and J. Hannaford
Maliko Tanguy et al.


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Latest update: 24 May 2018
Short summary
Potential evapotranspiration (PET) is a necessary input data for most hydrological models, used to simulate river flows. To reconstruct PET prior to 1960s, simplified methods are needed because of lack of climate data required for complex methods. We have found that McGuinness-Bordne PET equation, which only needs temperature as input data, works best for the UK provided it is calibrated for local conditions. This method was used to produce a 5 km gridded PET dataset for the UK for 1891–2015.
Potential evapotranspiration (PET) is a necessary input data for most hydrological models, used...