On the energy balance closure and net radiation in complex terrain

Wohlfahrt Georg*, Hammerle Albin, Niedrist Georg, Scholz Katharina, Tomelleri Enrico, Zhao Peng

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


In complex, sloping terrain, horizontal measurements of net radiation are not reflective of the radiative energy available for the conductive and convective heat exchange of the underlying surface. Using data from a grassland site on a mountain slope characterised by spatial heterogeneity in inclination and aspect, we tested the hypothesis that a correction of the horizontal net radiation measurements which accounts for the individual footprint contributions of the various surfaces to the measured sensible and latent heat eddy covariance fluxes will yield more realistic slope-parallel net radiation estimates compared to a correction based on the average inclination and aspect of the footprint. Our main result is that both approaches led to clear, but very similar improvements in the phase between available energy and the sum of the latent and sensible heat fluxes. As a consequence the variance in the sum of latent and sensible heat flux explained by available radiation improved by >10%, while energy balance closure improved only slightly. This is shown to be mainly due to the average inclination and aspect corresponding largely with the inclination and aspect of the main flux source area in combination with a limited sensitivity of the slope correction to small angular differences in, particularly, inclination and aspect. We conclude with a discussion of limitations of the present approach and future research directions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-49
Number of pages13
JournalAgricultural and Forest Meteorology
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Eddy covariance
  • Footprint
  • Grassland
  • Slope


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