In this paper, the ground observations were compared to the ERA-Interim, NCEP-DOE AMIP-II Reanalysis, MODIS ET product, and emerging offline SEBS ET data sets in the Yellow River source region of the Tibet Plateau. In general, the slopes of linear least squares exhibit differences, with ERA-Interim, NCEP–DOE, MOD16, and SEBS slopes of 0.88 ± 0.05, 0.64 ± 0.07, 0.66 ± 0.17, and 1.24 ± 0.97 respectively. ERA-Interim was found superior with ground observations to others; therefore, it provided a good representation of the study area. Based on the ERA-Interim ET product, the Sen's slope estimator and the Mann–Kendall (MK) test were applied to quantify the significance of the shifts in trends, while the moving t-test and MK test characterized abrupt changes. The results show that the Yellow River source region experienced a statistical increase in evapotranspiration (ET) in the northern part and a decrease in the southern part of the region from 1979 to 2014 at rates of approximately 1.65 and −0.50 mm/yr, respectively. The shift in the annual ET trend was more pronounced, and abrupt changes were detected in the 1980s. Precipitation was the most dominant factor affecting ET variation, whereas surface temperature was the least influential.

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