Natural Resources, School of


Date of this Version



N.C. Healey et al. Journal of Hydrology: Regional Studies 18 (2018) 80–91


2018 The Authors.


Study Region: The Nebraska Sand Hills consisting of four major land cover types: (1) lakes and wetlands (∼5% for both), (2) subirrigated meadows (∼10%), (3) dry valleys (∼20%), and (4) upland dunes (∼65%).

Study Focus: Examination of surface energy and water balances on multiple temporal scales with primary focus on latent heat flux (λE), and evapotranspiration (ET), to gain a better understanding of the annual, seasonal, and diel properties of surface energy partitioning among different Sand Hills ecosystems to improve regional water resource management. New Hydrological Insights for the Region: Based on surface energy and water balance measurements using Bowen ratio energy balance systems at three locations during 2004, we find a strong spatial gradient between sites in latent (λE) and sensible (H) heat flux due to differences in topography, soils, and plant community composition on all timescales. Seasonally, all land covers show the greatest λE in summer. Our results show that subirrigated meadows, dry valleys, and upland dunes allocate roughly 81%, 50%, and 41% of available energy to λE, respectively, during the growing season. The subirrigated meadow was the only cover type where cumulative annual ET surpassed cumulative annual precipitation (i.e. net loss of water to the atmosphere). Therefore, the dry valleys and upland dunes are where net groundwater recharge to the High Plains Aquifer is occurring.