Accurate estimation of evapotranspiration is vitally important for management of water resources and environmental protection. This study investigated the accuracy of integrating genetic algorithm and support vector machine (GA-SVM) models using climatic variables for simulating daily reference evapotranspiration (ET0). The developed GA-SVM models were tested using the ET0 calculated by Penman–Monteith FAO-56 (PMF-56) equation in a semi-arid environment of Qilian Mountain, northwest China. Eight models were developed using different combinations of daily climatic data including maximum air temperature (Tmax), minimum air temperature (Tmin), wind speed (U2), relative humidity (RH), and solar radiation (Rs). The accuracy of the models was evaluated using root mean square error (RMSE), mean absolute error (MAE), and correlation coefficient (r). The results indicated that the GA-SVM models successfully estimated ET0 with those obtained by the PMF-56 equation in the semi-arid mountain environment. The model with input combinations of Tmin, Tmax, U2, RH, and Rs had the smallest value of the RMSE and MAE as well as higher value of r (0.995) compared to other models. Relative to the performance of support vector machine (SVM) models and feed-forward artificial neural network models, it was found that the GA-SVM models proved superior for simulating ET0.

You do not currently have access to this content.