Simple process-led algorithms for simulating habitats (SPLASH v.1.0): Robust indices of radiation, evapotranspiration and plant-available moisture

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Bioclimatic indices for use in studies of ecosystem function, species distribution, and vegetation dynamics under changing climate scenarios depend on estimates of surface fluxes and other quantities, such as radiation, evapotranspiration and soil moisture, for which direct observations are sparse. These quantities can be derived indirectly from meteorological variables, such as near-surface air temperature, precipitation and cloudiness. Here we present a consolidated set of simple process-led algorithms for simulating habitats (SPLASH) allowing robust approximations of key quantities at ecologically relevant timescales. We specify equations, derivations, simplifications, and assumptions for the estimation of daily and monthly quantities of top-of-the-atmosphere solar radiation, net surface radiation, photosynthetic photon flux density, evapotranspiration (potential, equilibrium, and actual), condensation, soil moisture, and runoff, based on analysis of their relationship to fundamental climatic drivers. The climatic drivers include a minimum of three meteorological inputs: precipitation, air temperature, and fraction of bright sunshine hours. Indices, such as the moisture index, the climatic water deficit, and the Priestley-Taylor coefficient, are also defined. The SPLASH code is transcribed in C++, FORTRAN, Python, and R. A total of 1 year of results are presented at the local and global scales to exemplify the spatiotemporal patterns of daily and monthly model outputs along with comparisons to other model results.


  • Tyler W. Davis
  • I. Colin Prentice
  • Benjamin D. Stocker
  • Rebecca T. Thomas
  • Rhys J. Whitley
  • Han Wang
  • Bradley J. Evans
  • Angela V. Gallego-Sala
  • Martin T. Sykes
  • Wolfgang Cramer
External organisations
  • Imperial College London
  • United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • Northwest A&F University
  • Macquarie University, Sydney
  • University of Sydney
  • University of Exeter
  • Aix-Marseille University
  • University of Avignon
  • Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN)
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Ecology
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)689-708
Number of pages20
JournalGeoscientific Model Development
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Feb 14
Publication categoryResearch