Urban meteorological modeling using WRF: a sensitivity study

Ashish Sharma, Harindra J.S. Fernando, Alan F. Hamlet, Jessica J. Hellmann, Michael Barlage, Fei Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study explores the sensitivity of high-resolution mesoscale simulations of urban heat island (UHI) in the Chicago metropolitan area (CMA) and its environs to urban physical parameterizations, with emphasis on the role of lake breeze. A series of climate downscaling experiments were conducted using the urban-Weather Research and Forecasting (uWRF) model at 1-km horizontal resolution for a relatively warm period with a strong lake breeze. The study employed best available morphological data sets, selection of appropriate urban parameters, and estimates of anthropogenic heating sources for the CMA. Several urban parameterization schemes were then evaluated using these parameter values. The study also examined (1) the impacts of land data assimilation for initialization of the mesoscale model, (2) the role of urbanization on UHI and lake breeze, and (3) the effects of sub-grid scale land-cover variability on urban meteorological predictions. Comparisons of temperature and wind simulations with station observations and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer satellite data in the CMA showed that uWRF, with appropriate selection of urban parameter values, was able to reproduce the measured near-surface temperature and wind speeds reasonably well. In particular, the model was able to capture the observed spatial variation of 2-m near-surface temperatures at night, when the UHI effect was pronounced. Results showed that inclusion of sub-grid scale variability of land-use and initializing models with more accurate land surface data can yield improved simulations of near-surface temperatures and wind speeds, particularly in the context of simulating the extent and spatial heterogeneity of UHI effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1885-1900
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Climatology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 30 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • lake breeze
  • land data assimilation
  • mesoscale modeling
  • sub-grid scale land-use variability
  • urban heat island
  • urban meteorology
  • WRF

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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