Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2022 Jun 22. doi: 10.1007/s11356-022-21410-8. Online ahead of print.
Evapotranspiration is an important quantity required in many applications, such as hydrology and agricultural and irrigation planning. Reference evapotranspiration is particularly important, and the prediction of its variations is beneficial for analyzing the needs and management of water resources. In this paper, we explore the predictive ability of hybrid ensemble learning to predict daily reference evapotranspiration (RET) under the semi-arid climate by using meteorological datasets at 12 locations in the Andalusia province in southern Spain. The datasets comprise mean, maximum, and minimum air temperatures and mean relative humidity and mean wind speed. A new modified variant of the grey wolf optimizer, named the PRSFGWO algorithm, is proposed to maximize the ensemble learning’s prediction accuracy through optimal weight tuning and evaluate the proposed model’s capacity when the climate data is limited. The performance of the proposed approach, based on weighted ensemble learning, is compared with various algorithms commonly adopted in relevant studies. A diverse set of statistical measurements alongside ANOVA tests was used to evaluate the predictive performance of the prediction models. The proposed model showed high-accuracy statistics, with relative root mean errors lower than 0.999% and a minimum R2 of 0.99. The model inputs were also reduced from six variables to only two for cost-effective predictions of daily RET. This shows that the PRSFGWO algorithm is a good RET prediction model for the semi-arid climate region in southern Spain. The results obtained from this research are very promising compared with existing models in the literature.