• urban meteorology;
  • water vapour budget;
  • VAPIC experiment;
  • GPS;
  • mesoscale simulation


Scientific interest in urban meteorology has increased because highly populated areas experience high vulnerability to pollution or heavy rain. However, compared to urban air quality or urban heat island (UHI) processes, the urban water vapour cycle is poorly understood because it has been investigated less due to the lack of upper-air measurements and the high sensitivity of surface measurements to local heterogeneities. In this paper, surface measurements of wind, temperature, pressure and humidity, as well as integrated water vapour (IWV) from GPS and MODIS and numerical simulations, have been used to investigate the urban cycle of water vapour in May and June 2004 during the VAPIC field experiment in the Paris area.

The surface data show the typical characteristics of an urban area with the absence of water vapour sources and a UHI of about 6 °C at night. The urban IWV distribution differs completely, with an urban IWV excess on average between 1600 and 0600 UTC (with a maximum of about 1.5 kg m−2 at 0600 and 1700 UTC). No IWV difference between the urban and rural areas is found in the middle of the day. The numerical simulations reproduce accurately the urban IWV anomaly.

Shallow surface wind convergence associated with the UHI during nighttime provides moisture from the rural areas. Urban areas are therefore under wind convergence for most of the time. The rural water vapour sources and the depth of the convergence control the amplitude of the urban IWV excess. At about 1200 UTC, entrainment at the top of the urban boundary layer is the key process that inhibits the urban IWV excess observed at night. Copyright © 2009 Royal Meteorological Society