Development of an operational modeling system for urban heat islands: an application to Athens, Greece
The urban heat island (UHI) effect is one prominent form of localized anthropogenic climate modification. It represents a significant urban climate problem since it occurs in the layer of the atmosphere where almost all daily human activities take place. This paper presents the development of a high-resolution modeling system that could be used for simulating the UHI effect in the context of operational weather forecasting activities. The modeling system is built around a state-of-the-art numerical weather prediction model, properly modified to allow for the better representation of the urban climate. The model performance in terms of simulating the near-surface air temperature and thermal comfort conditions over the complex urban area of Athens, Greece, is evaluated during a 1.5-month operational implementation in the summer of 2010. Results from this case study reveal an overall satisfactory performance of the modeling system. The discussion of the results highlights the important role that, given the necessary modifications, a meteorological model can play as a supporting tool for developing successful heat island mitigation strategies. This is further underlined through the operational character of the presented modeling system.