Agronomy, vol.13, no.2, 2023 (SCI-Expanded)
The spatial heterogeneity in hydrologic simulations is a key difference between lumped and distributed models. Not all distributed models benefit from pedo-transfer functions based on the soil properties and crop-vegetation dynamics. Mostly coarse-scale meteorological forcing is used to estimate only the water balance at the catchment outlet. The mesoscale Hydrologic Model (mHM) is one of the rare models that incorporate remote sensing data, i.e., leaf area index (LAI) and aspect, to improve the actual evapotranspiration (AET) simulations and water balance together. The user can select either LAI or aspect to scale PET. However, herein we introduce a new weight parameter, “alphax”, that allows the user to incorporate both LAI and aspect together for potential evapotranspiration (PET) scaling. With the mHM code enhancement, the modeler also has the option of using raw PET with no scaling. In this study, streamflow and AET are simulated using the mHM in The Main Basin (Germany) for the period of 2002–2014. The additional value of PET scaling with LAI and aspect for model performance is investigated using Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) AET and LAI products. From 69 mHM parameters, 26 parameters are selected for calibration using the Optimization Software Toolkit (OSTRICH). For calibration and evaluation, the KGE metric is used for water balance, and the SPAEF metric is used for evaluating spatial patterns of AET. Our results show that the AET performance of the mHM is highest when using both LAI and aspect indicating that LAI and aspect contain valuable spatial heterogeneity information from topography and canopy (e.g., forests, grasslands, and croplands) that should be preserved during modeling. This is key for agronomic studies like crop yield estimations and irrigation water use. The additional “alphax” parameter makes the model physically more flexible and robust as the model can decide the weights according to the study domain.