Surface Energy Budget Network

The Surface Energy Budget Network, or SEBN, is a field experiment to measure fluxes of energy, water, and carbon dioxide at the air-land interface to improve understanding of the Earth’s surface energy balance. This network consolidates several independent but closely related observing systems into a single, cost-effective and efficient network. SEBN seeks to explain why climate variables (e.g., air temperature, precipitation) have changed. 

It is this energy balance that drives weather, climate, and ocean circulation, and therefore must be accurately reproduced in climate models in order for decision-makers to make sound choices regarding environmental and economic policy. Accurate understanding and simulation of Earth’s energy balance is also important for weather prediction, including short-term and seasonal predictions of water resources. 

Currently, NOAA has three SEBN stations in operation to cover representative eco-regions (forests, grasslands, crops, etc) in the US: Audubon in Arizona a grassland field; Bondville, IL, a corn and soybean field; and Chestnut Ridge, TN, a forest of Hickory, Oak and Maple trees.

SEBN Tower at Chestnut Ridge.

Data, which includes the input of moisture and heat to the atmosphere, are used by NOAA scientists to provide detailed examination of the land-surface feedbacks and related radiative processes that can drive regional climate and to improve weather predictions. 

The SEBN supports NOAA’s mission of providing high-value routine measurements of surface energy, water, and carbon budgets along with other climate variables in regional vegetation systems across the continental United States. The objective of the SEBN is to provide data that will improve predictions of water (precipitation, soil moisture, evapotranspiration) from days to months by focusing on a predictive understanding and response of the land surface to significant climate events for major land-use types in the U.S. SEBN data are used by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Land Surface Modeling group for testing and evaluation purposes.

Other uses of SEBN data include: (i) improved parameterizations of the land surface model physics that ultimately improves seasonal predictability of water resources; (ii) better understanding of the critical land surface processes that control the seasonal and annual water and carbon budgets for various ecosystem types and the impacts of extreme climatic events on the land surface responses; and (iii) supporting validation efforts for NOAA’s new water initiative.

Bondville SEBN Tower
Close-up of plants in field
Bondville soybean crop nearing full leaf out (Credit: Tilden Meyers, NOAA)
Close-up of tower in field
Bondville Flux Tower (2009 – present) (Credit: Tilden Meyers, NOAA)