The international urban energy balance models comparison project: first results from phase 1

C.S.B. Grimmond, M. Blackett, M. Best, J. Barlow, J. Baik, S.E. Belcher, G.J. Steeneveld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

366 Citations (Scopus)


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 Parameterisation 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. The aim of the comparison is two-fold: to identify those modelling approaches that minimise 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
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1268-1292
JournalJournal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • urban areas
  • energy balance
  • models
  • comparisons
  • land surface
  • submesoscale soil model
  • regular building arrays
  • global climate model
  • anthropogenic heat
  • boundary-layer
  • canopy model
  • 2 cities
  • parameterization scheme
  • roughness lengths
  • street canyons


Dive into the research topics of 'The international urban energy balance models comparison project: first results from phase 1'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this