Urban-PLUMBER at AMS 2020

Note: see project website for latest information: urban-plumber.github.io

At the American Meteorological Society (AMS) 100th Annual Meeting we introduced Urban-PLUMBER: evaluation and benchmarking of land surface models in urban areas [1].

The project is a collaboration of modelling groups from around the world interested in improving the accuracy of weather and climate simulations in urban areas. Read how to get involved below, or download the Urban-PLUMBER poster for the 2020 AMS annual meeting here.


Urban-PLUMBER will evaluate land surface models (LSMs) in urban areas at multiple sites.

The project is in two phases:

  1. initial evaluation at one suburban site to help familiarise participants with the process, and
  2. evaluation across multiple sites with varying degrees urbanised and vegetated fractions.

One of the aims of the project is to establish where on the urbanised/vegetated continuum different types of models are more skilful, another is to assess the progress in urban model development since the last major offline urban model comparison project (PILPS-Urban) [2].

Urban-PLUMBER differs from previous comparisons as it will involve many sites, and assess both specialised urban LSMs and general LSMs together.

Some of the current participants - contact us to get involved

PLUMBER and Benchmarking

The project builds upon the methods of PLUMBER (PALS Land sUrface Model Benchmarking Evaluation pRoject) [3] which assessed models using simple benchmarks, or minimum performance expectations, prior to evaluation. An example of a benchmark could be a very simple model with few parts or inputs, e.g.:

  • Out-of-sample linear regressions used as purely statistical models (i.e. without any grounding in physical laws).
  • Limited process-based models with some physical grounding, such as the Penman-Monteith equation.
  • Non specialised, universally available data, such as ECMWF’s ERA5 which does not include an urban surface parameterisation.

The PLUMBER experience indicates benchmarking can reveal where more complex LSMs are not utilising available information effectively, helping focus future model development.

An example of a simple linear regression which a complex LSM should be able to beat

Get involved

You can be part of the project by providing modelling output or urban flux tower observations for analysis. Right now we’re calling for interested groups to contact us. During the project we provide modelling participants with:

  • meteorological data for model spin-up and analysis periods,
  • site characteristics at the neighbourhood scale,
  • help to to set up an appropriate model configuration for the initial site, and on automating the configuration process at subsequent sites,
  • help to produce schematics and simple descriptions of your model for the broader community.

We expect the project to benefit both participating modelling groups and improve understanding of modelling urban areas as a whole. Contact me if you’d like to be involved in the project.

Download the Urban-PLUMBER poster for the 2020 AMS annual meeting


[1] Lipson, M., Grimmond, C.S.B., Best, M.J., Abramowitz, G., Pitman, A.J., 2020. Urban-PLUMBER–Evaluation and benchmarking of land surface models in urban areas, in: 100th American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting. https://ams.confex.com/ams/2020Annual/meetingapp.cgi/Paper/364914

[2] Grimmond, C.S.B., Blackett, M., Best, M.J., Baik, J.-J., Belcher, S.E., Beringer, J., Bohnenstengel, S.I., Calmet, I., Chen, F., Coutts, A., Dandou, A., Fortuniak, K., Gouvea, M.L., Hamdi, R., Hendry, M., Kanda, M., Kawai, T., Kawamoto, Y., Kondo, H., Krayenhoff, E.S., Lee, S.-H., Loridan, T., Martilli, A., Masson, V., Miao, S., Oleson, K., Ooka, R., Pigeon, G., Porson, A., Ryu, Y.-H., Salamanca, F., Steeneveld, G. j., Tombrou, M., Voogt, J.A., Young, D.T., Zhang, N., 2011. Initial results from Phase 2 of the international urban energy balance model comparison. International Journal of Climatology 31, 244–272. https://doi.org/10.1002/joc.2227

[2] Best, M.J., Abramowitz, G., Johnson, H.R., Pitman, A.J., Balsamo, G., Boone, A., Cuntz, M., Decharme, B., Dirmeyer, P.A., Dong, J., Ek, M., Guo, Z., Haverd, V., van den Hurk, B.J.J., Nearing, G.S., Pak, B., Peters-Lidard, C., Santanello, J.A., Stevens, L., Vuichard, N., 2015. The Plumbing of Land Surface Models: Benchmarking Model Performance. J. Hydrometeor 16, 1425–1442. https://doi.org/10.1175/JHM-D-14-0158.1

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