Fully coupled energy demand & climate simulations over Australia

Last week I presented some initial results of our new building energy/ urban land surface model (UCLEM) 1 coupled with an atmospheric climate model (CCAM) 2 at the EGU 2019 conference.

You can read more about UCLEM here, but in short it responds to local weather and calculates energy consumed inside buildings (from heating and cooling and other energy use) and then emits that energy as waste heat back into the environment. In dense urban areas that waste heat can raise air temperature and cause convection, changing local weather in a feedback loop. Apart from that, it’s useful to know how much energy is being used in different weather conditions.

This first animation shows the air temperature over Eastern Australia, along with the energy used within buildings. The second is nested within the first for a higher resolution simulation over Melbourne.

In the simulation the layout and structure of Melbourne is defined from a global database of urban form 3. This can likely be improved with some more detailed information about Melbourne, as some parts of the city (e.g. the CBD) could be better represented.

Notwithstanding, this is a big technical milestone which shows the two models can efficiently talk to each other.

These simulations took around 20 minutes per month to calculate when run in parallel on 868 processors. That’s fast compared to a lot of other climate models. This is possible because CCAM is a Lagrangian semi-implicit atmospheric model which uses an innovative variable stretched cubic grid (among other techniques) to allow fast and stable processing.

In future simulations we could calculate how energy demand is likely to change in projected climates, or make changes to urban form (building materials, heights, density, parkland etc) and study interactions of energy use and local climate.

Get in touch if you’re interested in undertaking research with this system.


[1] A building energy demand and urban land surface model, Lipson, M. J., Thatcher, M., Hart, M. A. and Pitman, A.: Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 2018.

[2] McGregor, J. L. and Dix, M. R.: An Updated Description of the Conformal-Cubic Atmospheric Model, in High Resolution Numerical Modelling of the Atmosphere and Ocean, pp. 51–75, Springer, New York, NY., 2008.

[3] Parameterization of Urban Characteristics for Global Climate Modeling, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Jackson, T. L., Feddema, J. J., Oleson, K. W., Bonan, G. B. and Bauer, J. T.: 2010.

Share Comments
comments powered by Disqus