Articles | Volume 8, issue 10
Research article
07 Oct 2015
Research article |  | 07 Oct 2015

Comparative measurements of water vapor fluxes over a tall forest using open- and closed-path eddy covariance system

J. B. Wu, X. Y. Zhou, A. Z. Wang, and F. H. Yuan

Abstract. Eddy covariance using infrared gas analyzes has been a useful tool for gas exchange measurements between soil, vegetation and the atmosphere. So far, comparisons between the open- and closed-path eddy covariance (CP) system have been extensively made on CO2 flux estimations, while lacking in the comparison of water vapor flux estimations. In this study, the specific performance of water vapor flux measurements of an open-path eddy covariance (OP) system was compared against a CP system over a tall temperate forest in northeastern China. The results show that the fluxes from the OP system (LEop) were generally greater than the LEcp though the two systems shared one sonic anemometer. The tube delay of closed-path analyzer depended on relative humidity, and the fixed median time lag contributed to a significant underestimation of LEcp between the forest and atmosphere, while slight systematic overestimation was also found for covariance maximization method with single broad time lag search window. After the optimized time lag compensation was made, the average difference between the 30 min LEop and LEcp was generally within 6.0 %. Integrated over the annual cycle, the CP system yielded a 5.1 % underestimation of forest evapotranspiration as compared to the OP system measurements (493 vs. 469 mm yr−1). This study indicates the importance to estimate the sampling tube delay accurately for water vapor flux calculations with closed-path analyzers, and it also suggests that some of the imbalance of the surface energy budget in flux sites is possibly caused by the systematic underestimation of water vapor fluxes measured with closed-path eddy covariance systems.