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Using observations to improve modelled energy, water and carbon exchanges for urban areas

Conference contribution
Authors Helen Ward
CSB Grimmond
Simone Kotthaus
Leena Järvi
Fredrik Lindberg
Jonathan Evans
Will Morrison
John Mustchin
Published in ICUC9 – 9 th International Conference on Urban Climate jointly with 12th Symposium on the Urban Environment. 20-24 July 2015, Toulouse, France
Publication year 2015
Published at Department of Earth Sciences
Language en
Subject categories Climate Research, Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences, Physical Geography


Models are an essential tool for studying how our surroundings influence us and how we, intentionally or inadvertently, influence our surroundings. The Surface Urban Energy and Water balance Scheme (SUEWS) uses a basic meteorological forcing dataset and information about the surface cover to model components of the energy and water balance. The model was initially developed based on studies in North America and is now being run for multiple locations around the world. Here, we evaluate the model at two locations in the UK. A network of micrometeorological observations exists across London, enabling comparisons between the city centre and suburbs. The central London study site is one of the most highly urbanised and densely populated to date. 120 km to the west is the typical suburban town of Swindon. At both of these locations, extensive observational datasets spanning several years have been collected, and work has been undertaken to classify the surface characteristics. However, as detailed land cover and socio-economic information may not always be available, we consider the impact on model performance of using only easily accessible data to provide the required inputs. SUEWS is evaluated against observations of energy and water balance components (including turbulent heat fluxes from eddy covariance and scintillometry techniques). SUEWS estimates evaporation using an adapted Penman-Monteith formulation with a variable surface conductance. Analysis of observed surface conductances suggests adjustments to improve model performance. CO2 fluxes, closely linked to the surface conductance, are also examined. The central London and suburban Swindon sites behave differently, in terms of both the magnitude and temporal variability of CO2 exchanges. These differences are almost entirely a result of land use and land cover, and associated patterns of human behaviour. Simple models based on anthropogenic emissions inventories provide an indication of the magnitude of the CO2 release, however, at the suburban site vegetation plays an important role in CO2 uptake and must be incorporated too. With improved modelling capability, the exposure of the population to risks such as thermal stress or flooding can be better estimated. Having validated the model, the impact of policy decisions and future climate scenarios on the wellbeing of the citizens can be assessed.

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