Numerical study of the daytime planetary boundary layer over an idealized urban area: Influence of surface properties, anthropogenic heat flux, and geostrophic wind intensity

Serena Falasca, Franco Catalano, Monica Moroni

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Large-eddy simulations of an idealized diurnal urban heat island are performed using the Weather Research and Forecasting Model. The surface energy balance over an inhomogeneous terrain is solved considering the anthropogenic heat contribution and the differences of thermal and mechanical properties between urban and rural surfaces. Several cases are simulated together with a reference case, considering different values of the control parameters: Albedo, thermal inertia, roughness length, anthropogenic heat emission, and geostrophic wind intensity. Spatial distributions of second-moment statistics, including the turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) budget, are analyzed to characterize the structure of the planetary boundary layer (PBL). The effect of each control parameter value on the turbulent properties of the PBL is investigated with respect to the reference case. For all of the analyzed cases, the primary source of TKE is the buoyancy in the lower half of the PBL, the shear in the upper half, and the turbulent transport term at the top. The vertical advection of TKE is significant in the upper half of the PBL. The control parameters significantly influence the shape of the profiles of the transport and shear terms in the TKE budget. Bulk properties of the PBL via proper scaling are compared with literature data. A log-linear relationship between the aspect ratio of the heat island and the Froude number is confirmed. For the first time, the effect of relevant surface control parameters and the geostrophic wind intensity on the bulk and turbulent properties of the PBL is systematically investigated at high resolution.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1021 - 1039
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science

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