Evaluating the ENVI-met microscale model for suitability in analysis of targeted urban heat mitigation strategies

Peter J. Crank, David Sailor, George Ban-Weiss, Mohammad Taleghani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

124 Scopus citations


Microscale atmospheric models are increasingly being used to project the thermal benefits of urban heat mitigation strategies (e.g., tree planting programs or use of high-albedo materials). However, prior to investment in specific mitigation efforts by local governments, it is desirable to test and validate the computational models used to evaluate strategies. While some prior studies have conducted limited evaluations of the ENVI-met microscale climate model for specific case studies, there has been relatively little systematic testing of the model's sensitivity to variations in model input and control parameters. This study builds on the limited foundation of past validation efforts by addressing two questions: (1) is ENVI-met grid independent; and (2) can the model adequately represent the air temperature perturbations associated with heat mitigation strategies? To test grid independence, a “flat” domain is tested with six vertical grid resolutions ranging from 0.75 to 2.0 m. To examine the second question, a control and two mitigation strategy simulations of idealized city blocks are tested. Results show a failure of grid independence in the “flat” domain simulations. Given that the mitigation strategies result in temperature changes that are an order of magnitude larger than the errors introduced by grid dependence for the flat domain, a lack of grid independence itself does not necessarily invalidate the use of ENVI-met for heat mitigation research. However, due to limitations in grid structure of the ENVI-met model, it was not possible to test grid dependence for more complicated simulations involving domains with buildings. Furthermore, it remains unclear whether existing efforts at model validation provide any assurance that the model adequately captures vertical mixing and exchange of heat from the ground to rooftop level. Thus, there remain concerns regarding the usefulness of the model for evaluating heat mitigation strategies, particularly when applied at roof level (e.g. high albedo or vegetated roofs).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)188-197
Number of pages10
JournalUrban Climate
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • ENVI-met
  • Grid sensitivity
  • Heat mitigation strategies
  • Model validation
  • Urban climate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Urban Studies
  • Atmospheric Science


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