Regional climate model assessment of the urban land-surface forcing over central Europe
For the purpose of qualifying and quantifying the climate impact of cities and urban surfaces in general on climate of central Europe, the surface parameterization in regional climate model RegCM4 has been extended with the Single-layer Urban Canopy Model (SLUCM). A set of experiments was performed over the period of 2005–2009 for central Europe, either without considering urban surfaces or with the SLUCM treatment. Results show a statistically significant impact of urbanized surfaces on temperature (up to 1.5 K increase in summer) as well as on the boundary layer height (increases up to 50 m). Urbanization further influences surface wind with a winter decrease up to −0.6 m s
−1, though both increases and decreases were detected in summer depending on the location relative to the cities and daytime (changes up to 0.3 m s
−1). Urban surfaces significantly reduce the humidity over the surface. This impacts the simulated summer precipitation rate, showing a decrease over cities of up to −2 mm day
−1. Significant temperature increases are simulated over higher altitudes as well, not only within the urban canopy layer. With the urban parameterization, the climate model better describes the diurnal temperature variation, reducing the cold afternoon and evening bias of RegCM4.
Sensitivity experiments were carried out to quantify the response of the meteorological conditions to changes in the parameters specific to the urban environment, such as street width, building height, albedo of the roofs and anthropogenic heat release. The results proved to be rather robust and the choice of the key SLUCM parameters impacts them only slightly (mainly temperature, boundary layer height and wind velocity). Statistically significant impacts are modelled not only over large urbanized areas, but the influence of the cities is also evident over rural areas without major urban surfaces. It is shown that this is the result of the combined effect of the distant influence of the cities and the influence of the minor local urban surface coverage.