On the representation of urban heterogeneities in mesoscale models

Alberto Martilli, Jose Luis Santiago, Francisco Salamanca Palou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The size and arrangement of the obstacles and the presence of a source of heat (anthropogenic heat flux) are distinctive characteristics of an urban area. These two elements, together with the specific applications oriented to improve citizen’s comfort, determine the way urban heterogeneities are represented in mesoscale models. In this contribution two examples are presented. In the first a microscale fluid dynamics model is used to investigate the role of organized motions (dispersive fluxes) of a passive tracer emitted at the surface in a staggered and in an aligned array of cubes. The impact of the dispersive flux, that can reach 90 % of the total flux in the staggered array, is then assessed in a column model. The second example deals with the representation of anthropogenic heat fluxes and the estimation of thermal comfort by means of an urban canopy parameterization with a simple building energy model, implemented in a mesoscale model. The simulation of a typical summer day over the city of Madrid (Spain) shows that the anthropogenic heat fluxes have the largest impact on the air temperature in the evening-night, and that the presence of the city prolongs to the late evening the period of thermal discomfort, compared with the rural areas surrounding the city. The paper is concluded by pointing out that future work must be devoted to deep on the relationship between the real morphology of a city and the simplified morphology adopted in the urban canopy parameterizations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)305-328
Number of pages24
JournalEnvironmental Fluid Mechanics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2015


  • Mesoscale modelling
  • Thermal comfort
  • Urban canopy parameterizations
  • Urban morphology
  • microscale modelling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology


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