A brief history of the thermal IR-based Two-Source Energy Balance (TSEB) model – diagnosing evapotranspiration from plant to global scales

Martha C. Anderson, William P. Kustas, John M. Norman, George T. Diak, Christopher R. Hain, Feng Gao, Yun Yang, Kyle R. Knipper, Jie Xue, Yang Yang, Wade T. Crow, Thomas R.H. Holmes, Hector Nieto, Radoslaw Guzinski, Jason A. Otkin, John R. Mecikalski, Carmelo Cammalleri, Alfonso T. Torres-Rua, Xiwu Zhan, Li FangPaul D. Colaizzi, Nurit Agam

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Thermal infrared (TIR) remote sensing of the land-surface temperature (LST) provides an invaluable diagnostic of surface fluxes and vegetation state, from plant and sub-field scales up to regional and global coverage. However, without proper consideration of the nuances of the remotely sensed LST signal, TIR imaging can give poor results for estimating sensible and latent heating. For example, sensor view angle, atmospheric impacts, and differential coupling of soil and canopy sub-pixel elements with the overlying atmosphere can affect the use of satellite-based LST retrievals in land-surface modeling systems. A concerted effort to address the value and perceived shortcomings of TIR-based modeling culminated in the Workshop on Thermal Remote Sensing of the Energy and Water Balance, held in La Londe les Maures, France in September of 1993. One of the outcomes of this workshop was the Two-Source Energy Balance (TSEB) model, which has fueled research and applications over a range of spatial scales. In this paper we provide some historical context for the development of TSEB and TSEB-based multi-scale modeling systems (ALEXI/DisALEXI) aimed at providing physically based, diagnostic estimates of latent heating (evapotranspiration, or ET, in mass units) and other surface energy fluxes. Applications for TSEB-based ET retrievals are discussed: in drought monitoring and yield estimation, water and forest management, and data assimilation into – and assessment of – prognostic modeling systems. New research focuses on augmenting temporal sampling afforded in the thermal bands by integrating cloud-tolerant, microwave-based LST information, as well as evaluating the capabilities of TSEB for separating ET estimates into evaporation and transpiration components. While the TSEB has demonstrated promise in supplying water use and water stress information down to sub-field scales, improved operational capabilities may be best realized in conjunction with ensemble modeling systems such as OpenET, which can effectively combine strengths of multiple ET retrieval approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109951
JournalAgricultural and Forest Meteorology
StatePublished - 1 May 2024


  • Evapotranspiration
  • Land-surface temperature
  • Remote sensing
  • Surface energy balance
  • Thermal infrared

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Atmospheric Science


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