Evaluation of boundary layer and urban canopy parameterizations for simulating wind in miami during hurricane irma (2017)

Eric A. Hendricks, Jason C. Knievel, David S. Nolan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The simulated winds within the urban canopy of landfalling tropical cyclones are sensitive to the representation of the planetary boundary and urban canopy layers in numerical weather prediction models. To assess the subgridscale parameterizations of these layers, mesoscale model simulations were executed and evaluated against near-surface observations as the outer wind field of Hurricane Irma (2017) interacted with the built-up region from downtown Miami northward to West Palm Beach. Four model simulations were examined, comprising two different planetary boundary layer (PBL) parameterizations (a local closure scheme with turbulent kinetic energy prediction and a nonlocal closure scheme) and two different urban canopy models (UCMs) [a zeroth-order bulk scheme and a multilayer building effect parameterization (BEP) that mimics the three-dimensionality of buildings]. Overall, the simulated urban canopy winds were weakly sensitive to the PBL scheme and strongly sensitive to the UCM. The bulk simulations compared most favorably to an analyzed wind swath in the urban environment, while the BEP simulations had larger negative biases in the same region. There is uncertainty in magnitude of the urban environment biases due to the lack of many urban sheltered measurements in the wind swath analysis. Biases in the rural environment were similar among the bulk and BEP simulations. An improved comparison with the analyzed wind swath in the urban region was obtained by reducing the drag coefficient in BEP in one of the PBL schemes. The usefulness of BEP was demonstrated in its ability to predict realistic heterogeneous near-surface velocity patterns in urban regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2321-2349
Number of pages29
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Atmosphere-land interaction
  • Boundary layer
  • Model evaluation/performance
  • Parameterization
  • Tropical cyclones
  • Urban meteorology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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