Evapotranspiration is one of the main components of the hydrological cycle as it accounts for more than two-thirds of the precipitation losses at the global scale. Reliable estimates of actual evapotranspiration are crucial for effective watershed modelling and water resource management, yet direct measurements of the evapotranspiration losses are difficult and expensive. This research explores the utility and effectiveness of data-driven techniques in modelling actual evapotranspiration measured by an eddy covariance system. The authors compare the Evolutionary Polynomial Regression (EPR) performance to Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs) and Genetic Programming (GP). Furthermore, this research investigates the effect of previous states (time lags) of the meteorological input variables on characterizing actual evapotranspiration. The models developed using the EPR, based on the two case studies at the Mildred Lake mine, AB, Canada provided comparable performance to the models of GP and ANNs. Moreover, the EPR provided simpler models than those developed by the other data-driven techniques, particularly in one of the case studies. The inclusion of the previous states of the input variables slightly enhanced the performance of the developed model, which in turn indicates the dynamic nature of the evapotranspiration process.
Keywords: actual evapotranspiration, data driven techniques, eddy covariance, evolutionary polynomial regression, genetic programming, neural networks