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Keywords:

  • urban modelling;
  • mesoscale modelling;
  • urban environmental issues;
  • WRF urban model

Abstract

To bridge the gaps between traditional mesoscale modelling and microscale modelling, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in collaboration with other agencies and research groups, has developed an integrated urban modelling system coupled to the weather research and forecasting (WRF) model as a community tool to address urban environmental issues. The core of this WRF/urban modelling system consists of the following: (1) three methods with different degrees of freedom to parameterize urban surface processes, ranging from a simple bulk parameterization to a sophisticated multi-layer urban canopy model with an indoor–outdoor exchange sub-model that directly interacts with the atmospheric boundary layer, (2) coupling to fine-scale computational fluid dynamic Reynolds-averaged Navier–Stokes and Large-Eddy simulation models for transport and dispersion (T&D) applications, (3) procedures to incorporate high-resolution urban land use, building morphology, and anthropogenic heating data using the National Urban Database and Access Portal Tool (NUDAPT), and (4) an urbanized high-resolution land data assimilation system. This paper provides an overview of this modelling system; addresses the daunting challenges of initializing the coupled WRF/urban model and of specifying the potentially vast number of parameters required to execute the WRF/urban model; explores the model sensitivity to these urban parameters; and evaluates the ability of WRF/urban to capture urban heat islands, complex boundary-layer structures aloft, and urban plume T&D for several major metropolitan regions. Recent applications of this modelling system illustrate its promising utility, as a regional climate-modelling tool, to investigate impacts of future urbanization on regional meteorological conditions and on air quality under future climate change scenarios. Copyright © 2010 Royal Meteorological Society