Analysis of the Seasonal Cycle Within the First International Urban Land-Surface Model Comparison

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A number of urban land-surface models have been developed in recent years to satisfy the growing requirements for urban weather and climate interactions and prediction. These models vary considerably in their complexity and the processes that they represent. Although the models have been evaluated, the observational datasets have typically been of short duration and so are not suitable to assess the performance over the seasonal cycle. The First International Urban Land-Surface Model comparison used an observational dataset that spanned a period greater than a year, which enables an analysis over the seasonal cycle, whilst the variety of models that took part in the comparison allows the analysis to include a full range of model complexity. The results show that, in general, urban models do capture the seasonal cycle for each of the surface fluxes, but have larger errors in the summer months than in the winter. The net all-wave radiation has the smallest errors at all times of the year but with a negative bias. The latent heat flux and the net storage heat flux are also underestimated, whereas the sensible heat flux generally has a positive bias throughout the seasonal cycle. A representation of vegetation is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for modelling the latent heat flux and associated sensible heat flux at all times of the year. Models that include a temporal variation in anthropogenic heat flux show some increased skill in the sensible heat flux at night during the winter, although their daytime values are consistently overestimated at all times of the year. Models that use the net all-wave radiation to determine the net storage heat flux have the best agreement with observed values of this flux during the daytime in summer, but perform worse during the winter months. The latter could result from a bias of summer periods in the observational datasets used to derive the relations with net all-wave radiation. Apart from these models, all of the other model categories considered in the analysis result in a mean net storage heat flux that is close to zero throughout the seasonal cycle, which is not seen in the observations. Models with a simple treatment of the physical processes generally perform at least as well as models with greater complexity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-446
Number of pages26
JournalBoundary-Layer Meteorology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


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