A multi-site model evaluation project for urban areas

Project by: Mathew Lipson (UNSW), Sue Grimmond (Reading), Martin Best (Met Office)

Timing: Jan 2020Dec 2023

Funded by: Community-based project

Short intro: Urban-PLUMBER evaluates the performance of land surface models used in in meteorological or climatic simulations of urban areas. The project is open to any group that wishes to gain a better understanding of how their model performs in a wide range of urban environments.

Previous urban model evaluation projects have assessed how model complexity affects prediction of land-atmosphere energy exchange at two urban sites (Grimmond et al., 2010, 2011), and how coupled surface-atmosphere simulations differ from offline simulations (Steeneveld et al., 2017). In non-urban landscapes, the PLUMBER project introduced a framework for benchmarking models across many sites (Best et al., 2015).

Building on these methods, Urban-PLUMBER will ask:

  • How have the last decade of model development affected performance?
  • Where do different modelling approaches excel across the urbanised/vegetated continuum?
  • How does more detailed morphology information affect model performance?
  • Are models utilising available meteorological information effectively?

Phase 1

Phase 1 has been completed. 30 models participated, from non-urbanised LSMs and simple slab schemes, through to multi-layer canopy and building resolving models.

The evaluation was undertaken at one suburban site in Melbourne, Australia, the same used in the first evaluation project 10 years ago (Grimmond et al., 2011), allowing an assessment of how model development has affected performance.

Phase 2

Phase 2 of the project (underway) includes 20 sites across a range of urban fractions.


  • Lipson M, Grimmond S, Best M, et al. Harmonized gap-filled datasets from 20urban flux tower sites. Earth Syst Sci Data 2022;14(11):5157-5178. https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-14-5157-2022
  • Lipson M, Grimmond S, Best M, et al. Evaluation of 30 urban land surface models in the Urban-PLUMBER project: Phase 1 results Q J R Soc. 2023. https://doi.org/10.1002/qj.4589
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