On the Use of the Term “Evapotranspiration”

D. G. Miralles*, W. Brutsaert, A. J. Dolman, J. H. Gash

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalComment / Letter to the editorAcademic


Evaporation is the phenomenon by which a substance is converted from its liquid into its vapor phase, independently of where it lies in nature. However, language is alive, and just like regular speech, scientific terminology changes. Frequently, those changes are grounded on a solid rationale, but sometimes these semantic transitions have a fragile foundation. That is the case with “evapotranspiration.” A growing generation of scientists have been educated on using this terminology and are unaware of the historical controversy and physical inconsistency that surrounds it. Here, we present what may appear to some as an esoteric linguistic discussion, yet it was originally triggered by the increasing time some of us have devoted to justifying our word choice to reviewers, editors, and peers. By clarifying our arguments for using the term “evaporation,” we also seek to prevent having to revive this discussion every time a new article is submitted, so that we can move directly on to more scientifically relevant matters.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020WR028055
Pages (from-to)1-5
Number of pages5
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number11
Early online date17 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


  • evaporation
  • evapotranspiration
  • interception
  • transpiration


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