City-wide, high-resolution mapping of evapotranspiration to guide climate-resilient planning

Stenka Vulova*, Alby Duarte Rocha, Fred Meier, Hamideh Nouri, Christian Schulz, Chris Soulsby, Doerthe Tetzlaff, Birgit Kleinschmit

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The impacts of global change, including extreme heat and water scarcity, are threatening an ever-growing urban world population. Evapotranspiration (ET) mitigates the urban heat island, reducing the effect of heat waves. It can also be used as a proxy for vegetation water use, making it a crucial tool to plan resilient green cities. To optimize the trade-off between urban greening and water security, reliable and up-to-date maps of ET for cities are urgently needed. Despite its importance, few studies have mapped urban ET accurately for an entire city in high spatial and temporal resolution. We mapped the ET of Berlin, Germany in high spatial (10-m) and temporal (hourly) resolution for the year of 2019. A novel machine learning (ML) approach combining Sentinel-2 time series, open geodata, and flux footprint modeling was applied. Two eddy flux towers with contrasting surrounding land cover provided the training and testing data. Flux footprint modeling allowed us to incorporate comprehensive land cover types in training the ML models. Open remote sensing and geodata used as model inputs included Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) from Sentinel-2, building height, impervious surface fraction, vegetation fraction, and vegetation height. NDVI was used to indicate vegetation phenology and health, as plant transpiration contributes to the majority of terrestrial ET. Hourly reference ET (RET) was calculated and used as input to capture the temporal dynamics of the meteorological conditions. Predictions were carried out using Random Forest (RF) regression. Weighted averages extracted from hourly ET maps using flux footprints were compared to measured ET from the two flux towers. Validation showed that the approach is reliable for mapping urban ET, with a mean R2 of 0.76 and 0.56 and a mean RMSE of 0.0289 mm and 0.0171 mm at the more vegetated site and the city-center site, respectively. Lastly, the variation of ET between Local Climate Zones (LCZs) was analyzed to support urban planning. This study demonstrated the capacity to map urban ET at an unprecedented high spatial and temporal resolution with a novel methodology, which can be used to support the sustainable management of green infrastructure and water resources in an urbanizing world facing climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113487
Number of pages16
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Early online date1 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2023


  • Cooling cities
  • High resolution
  • Latent heat flux
  • Local Climate Zones (LCZs)
  • Nature-based solutions
  • NDVI
  • Phenology
  • Satellite remote sensing
  • Transpiration
  • Urban heat island (UHI)
  • Urban planning
  • Water scarcity


Dive into the research topics of 'City-wide, high-resolution mapping of evapotranspiration to guide climate-resilient planning'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this