The performances of five empirical models, namely: Hargreaves-Samani, Makkink1 (1957), Makkink2 (1984), Priestley-Taylor and FAO 56-PM in estimating reference evapotranspiration (REF-ET) were separately compared with Epan data and FAO 56-PM, respectively. Based on statistical analysis, Hargreaves-Samani method compared best with daily and monthly Epan data, while Makkik2 (1984) ranked first with FAO 56-PM. In terms of regression analysis, Priestley-Taylor performed best with daily FAO 56-PM method while Hargreaves-Samani ranked first with daily Epan data. Hargreaves-Samani also correlated best with mean monthly Epan data. The quantitative evaluation of cumulative daily and monthly reference-evapotranspiration (RET-ET) values showed that Makkink (1984) produced the least overestimation and percent relative error against FAO 56-PM while Hargreaves-Samani performed best with Epan data with the least overestimation and percent relative error. In terms of cumulative monthly ETo totals for the farming season (Dec-April) over the study period, Hargreaves-Samani ranked best with Epan data with the least overestimation and percent relative error while Priestley–Taylor ranked best with FAO 56-PM producing the least overestimation. Overall, Hargreaves-Samani with its original coefficient was adjudged best, capable of approximating FAO 56-PM and Epan data in the Lower Niger River Basin, followed by Makkink (1984) and Priestley-Taylor. Penman-Monteith estimates were used to develop monthly correction factors for adjusting Empirical models for their potential use in Lower Niger Basin. A comparative study such as this has not been undertaken in the Lower Niger River Basin. The models recommended in this study are economical, lesser-data demanding and can be applied to predicting REF-ET in remote agricultural areas.
Key words: Reference-evapotranspiration (RET-ET), empirical models, radiation-based methods, temperature-based methods, FAO 56 –PM, Lower Niger River Basin.
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