A multi-site model evaluation project for urban areas

Download project scripts Download project protocol
Mathew Lipson (UNSW), Sue Grimmond (Reading), Martin Best (Met Office).

Urban-PLUMBER will evaluate 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:

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


The project has two phases:

Who should get involved?

Modelling participants: Models able to predict neighbourhood-scale land-atmosphere radiant and turbulent heat exchanges from meteorological inputs. Both specialised urban land surface models and those without an explicit urban representation are invited. Read the modelling protocol for more information.

Observations participants: Local-scale urban flux tower observations are needed to both drive models and evaluate outputs. Read the observations requirements for more information

Those who provide modelling or observational data will be invited as authors on relevant papers.

Project resources

A series of scripts and resources are provided with the aim of making participation easier - especially for the multi-site phase. These include:

More information

Email met-urban-plumber@lists.reading.ac.uk to register your interest.

Read the modelling or observations protocols for detailed information.

View the available scripts and resources to help automate the multi-site phase.

Visit modelevaluation.org, a website used for distributing, submitting and evaluating project data.

Check the Q&A page for questions and clarifications on the project.

See the changelog listing any changes to project documents or resources.


Phase 2

Phase 2 of the project (beginning December 2020) will include a range of sites where appropriate urban flux tower observations are available.

Phase 2


We gratefully acknowledge those who have supported this project, provided valuable feedback and offered observational datasets including Gab Abramowitz, Martin De Kauwe, Aristofanis Tsiringakis, Gert-Jan Steeneveld, Valéry Masson, Helen Ward, Andrew Coutts, Andrew Pitman, Denise Hertwig, Matthias Demuzere, Natalie Theeuwes, David Meyer, Mengyuan Mu, Zutao Yang, David Reed, Yurong Shi, David Reed, Andreas Christen, Matthias Roth, Fred Meier, Dieter Scherer, Leena Järvi, Włodzimierz Pawlak, Eric Velasco, Hirofumi Sugawara, Shiguang Miao, Junxia Dou, Stevan Earl, Nigel Tapper, Yuya Takane, Winston Chow and David Sailor.


  1. Grimmond, C. S. B., Blackett, M., Best, M. J., Barlow, J., Baik, J.-J., Belcher, S. E., Bohnenstengel, S. I., Calmet, I., Chen, F., Dandou, A., Fortuniak, K., Gouvea, M. L., Hamdi, R., Hendry, M., Kawai, T., Kawamoto, Y., Kondo, H., Krayenhoff, E. S., Lee, S.-H. and Loridan, T.: The International Urban Energy Balance Models Comparison Project: First Results from Phase 1, Journal of Applied Meteorology & Climatology, 49(6), 1268–1292, doi:10.1175/2010JAMC2354.1, 2010.
  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. and Zhang, N.: Initial results from Phase 2 of the international urban energy balance model comparison, International Journal of Climatology, 31(2), 244–272, doi:10.1002/joc.2227, 2011.
  3. Steeneveld, G., Tsiringakis, A., Barlow, J., Bohnenstengel, S., Grimmond, S., Halios, C., van Haren, R., Kotthaus, S., Masson, V., van den Oord, G. and others: Single-column urban boundary layer inter-comparison modelling experiment (SUBLIME): Call for participation, Urban Climate News: Quarterly Newsletter of the IAUC, 66, 21–26, 2017.
  4. 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. and Vuichard, N.: The Plumbing of Land Surface Models: Benchmarking Model Performance, J. Hydrometeor, 16(3), 1425–1442, doi:10.1175/JHM-D-14-0158.1, 2015.