The present study compared various empirical and data-driven algorithms to predict Actual Evapotranspiration (AET) using various hydro climatic variables. The AET over semi-arid climatic conditions of Hyderabad, Telangana, India, and Waipara (New Zealand) was estimated using different empirical methods-based PET using Budyko and Turc models. Modelled PET from five data-driven algorithms, such as Long short-term memory neural networks (LSTM), Artificial Neural Network (ANN), Gradient Boosting Regressor, Random Forest, and Support Vector Regression were trained to predict AET using meteorological variables. The results show simple empirical-based AET models, Budyko and Turc, can estimate AET very well. The results indicated that 99% accuracy could be achieved with all climatic input, whereas accuracy drops to 86% with limited data. Both LSTM and ANN models based on PET have been noted as the most robust models for estimating AET with minimal climate data. It was observed that the meteorological variables of temperature and solar radiation have more significant contributions than other variables in the estimation of AET. In addition, the effects of the meteorological variables were found to be essential and effective in the estimation of AET. The research findings of the study reveal that under limited data availability, the best input combinations were identified as temperature and wind speed for estimating PET; temperature, wind speed, and precipitation for estimating AET for semi-arid climatology.
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