Can weighing lysimeter ET represent surrounding field ET well enough to test flux station measurements of daily and sub-daily ET?
Weighing lysimeters and neutron probes (NP) are both used to determine the change in soil water storage needed to solve for evapotranspiration (ET) using the soil water balance equation. We compared irrigated cotton ET determined using two large (3 × 3 × 2.4-m deep) weighing lysimeters and eight NP soil water profiles located outside the lysimeters in cotton fields during the BEAREX08 field campaign (see  Evett et al., this issue). The objectives were to (i) determine if lysimeter-based ET fluxes were representative of those from the fields, designated NE and SE, in which the lysimeters were centered, and (ii) investigate different methods of computing the soil water balance using NP data. Field fluxes were determined from the soil water balance using neutron probe measurements of change in profile water content storage. Fluxes of ET from the SE lysimeter were representative of those from the field throughout the season and can be used with reasonable certainty for comparisons of ET fluxes and energy balance closure derived from Bowen ratio (BR) and eddy covariance (EC) measurements whose footprints lay in the SE field. Comparisons of ET fluxes from EC and BR systems to those from the NE lysimeter should consider that NE lysimeter fluxes were up to 18% larger than those from the NE field during the period of rapid vegetative growth. This was due to plants on the lysimeter having greater height and width than those in the field. Nevertheless, the data from this and companion studies documents substantial underestimation of crop ET by EC stations under the conditions of BEAREX08. Comparison of zero flux plane (ZFP) and simple soil water balance methods of calculating ET from NP data showed them to be equivalent in this study; and for the ZFP method, the depth of the control volume should be determined by the depth at which the hydraulic gradient reverses, not by the depth of calculated minimum flux. If supported by a sufficiently dense and widespread network of deep soil water balance based estimates of ET in the surrounding patch and by ancillary measurements of crop stand and growth within the lysimeter and in the surrounding patch, a weighing lysimeter can provide accurate ET ground truth for comparisons with ET estimated using flux stations or ET calculated using satellite imagery. It must be emphasized that the water balance measurements must include soil profile water content measurements to well below (e.g., 0.5 to 1 m below) the root zone in order to close the water balance. âº Evapotranspiration measured by weighing lysimeter may not match that in the field. âº Neutron probe field soil water balance and lysimeter measures of ET were compared. âº Field ET matched lysimeter ET for one field throughout the growing season. âº In another field, field ET was less than lysimeter ET during vegetative growth. âº Simple soil water balance compared well with a zero flux plane approach.