Geography & Environment Publications
The International Urban Energy Balance Models Comparison Project: First Results from Phase 1
Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology
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A large number of urban surface energy balance models now exist with different assumptions about the important features of the surface and exchange processes that need to be incorporated. To date, no comparison of these models has been conducted; in contrast, models for natural surfaces have been compared extensively as part of the Project for Intercomparison of Land-surface Parameterization Schemes. Here, the methods and first results from an extensive international comparison of 33 models are presented. The aim of the comparison overall is to understand the complexity required to model energy and water exchanges in urban areas. The degree of complexity included in the models is outlined and impacts on model performance are discussed. During the comparison there have been significant developments in the models with resulting improvements in performance (root-mean-square error falling by up to two-thirds). Evaluation is based on a dataset containing net all-wave radiation, sensible heat, and latent heat flux observations for an industrial area in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The aim of the comparison is twofold: to identify those modeling approaches that minimize the errors in the simulated fluxes of the urban energy balance and to determine the degree of model complexity required for accurate simulations. There is evidence that some classes of models perform better for individual fluxes but no model performs best or worst for all fluxes. In general, the simpler models perform as well as the more complex models based on all statistical measures. Generally the schemes have best overall capability to model net all-wave radiation and least capability to model latent heat flux.