The sensitivity of urban meteorology to soil moisture boundary conditions: A case study in Melbourne, Australia

Stephanie J. Jacobs, Ailie J.E. Gallant, Nigel J. Tapper

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6 Citations (Scopus)


The sensitivity of near-surface urban meteorological conditions to three different soil moisture initialization experiments under heat-wave conditions is investigated for the city of Melbourne, Australia. The Weather Research and Forecasting Model is used to simulate a domain over Melbourne and its surrounding rural areas. The experiments employ three suites of simulations. Two suites initialize the model with soil moisture from the top layer of the ERA-Interim soil moisture data with a 3-month and 24-h coupled spinup period, respectively. The third suite initializes the model with the arguably more realistic soil moistures from the Australian Water Availability Project (AWAP), which are an order of magnitude drier than the ERA-Interim data, again using a 24-h spinup period. The simulations employing the AWAP data are found to have smaller errors when compared with observations, with biases in urban maximum temperature reduced by 4.1°C and biases in the skin temperature reduced by 3.0°C relative to the biases of the 3-month-spinup experiment. Despite urban areas only having a small proportion of soil-covered surfaces, the results show that urban soils have a greater influence on urban near-surface temperatures at night, whereas rural soils have a greater influence on urban near-surface temperatures during the daytime.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2155-2172
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017


  • Boundary layer
  • Humidity
  • Soil moisture
  • Temperature
  • Urban meteorology

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