Simulations of the London urban heat island


  • S. I. Bohnenstengel,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, UK
    • Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, PO Box 243, Earley Gate, Reading, RG6 6BB, UK.
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  • S. Evans,

    1. UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), London, UK
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  • P. A. Clark,

    1. Met Office Joint Centre for Mesoscale Meteorology (JCMM), Reading, UK
    Current affiliation:
    1. Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences Mathematics/Civil, Chemical and Environment Engineering (C5), University of Surrey, Guildford, UK.
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    • The contribution of these authors was written in the course of their employment at the Met Office, UK, and is published with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.

  • S.E. Belcher

    1. Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, UK
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We present simulations of London's meteorology using the Met Office Unified Model with a new, sophisticated surface energy-balance scheme to represent the urban surfaces, called MORUSES. Simulations are performed with the urban surfaces represented and with the urban surfaces replaced with grass in order to calculate the urban increment on the local meteorology. The local urban effects were moderated to some extent by the passage of an onshore flow that propagated up the Thames estuary and across the city, cooling London slightly in the afternoon. Validations of screen-level temperature show encouraging agreement to within 1–2 K, when the urban increment is up to 5 K. The model results are then used to examine factors shaping the spatial and temporal structure of London's atmospheric boundary layer. The simulations reconcile the differences in the temporal evolution of the urban heat island (UHI) shown in various studies and demonstrate that the variation of UHI with time depends strongly on the urban fetch. The UHI at a location downwind of the city centre shows a decrease in UHI during the night, while the UHI at the city centre stays constant. Finally, the UHI at a location upwind of the city centre increases continuously. The magnitude of the UHI by the time of the evening transition increases with urban fetch. The urban increments are largest at night, when the boundary layer is shallow. The boundary layer experiences continued warming after sunset, as the heat from the urban fabric is released, and a weakly convective boundary layer develops across the city. The urban land-use fraction is the dominant control on the spatial structure in the sensible heat flux and the resulting urban increment, although even the weak advection present in this case study is sufficient to advect the peak temperature increments downwind of the most built-up areas. Copyright © 2011 Royal Meteorological Society and British Crown Copyright, the Met Office