Spatial variations of the urban boundary layer – what are the feedbacks from anthropogenic heat fluxes?

   Department of Meteorology

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  Prof S Grimmond, Dr Sylvia Bohnenstengel, Dr Joelle Buxmann  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

The next generation of weather models will have high resolution sub-km modelling. These will be used to inform critical decisions about how cities operate day-to-day into the future. At this scale, the different neighbourhoods of a city can be distinguished. The proposed research will focus on the spatial variation of the boundary layer across cities in response to neighborhood scale variations in heat emissions from human activities (the anthropogenic heat flux, e.g. Liu et al. 2022). This will draw on the ERC urbisphere network of sensors across Berlin to assess spatial variability. This will provide much needed insights into the impact of human activities and how they vary across cities; i.e. controlling the release of heat into urban areas (e.g. from buildings and vehicles) and the influence of this. The observational data will be compared to those simulated with next generation of Unified Model (UM) (order of 100 m grid resolution). The key focus of the work will be to consider the impact of spatio-temporal variations in anthropogenic heat fluxes on the boundary layer height. This will evaluate a new anthropogenic heat flux model being put into the UM urban surface energy balance scheme. The goal will be to assess if the dynamic feedbacks in anthropogenic heat fluxes enhance modelling of urban-atmosphere exchanges.

A strategic priority for the Met Office is the development of 100 m scale modelling. The student will build on work undertaken in previous Met Office/University of Reading studentships to enhance model skill and to explore the spatial variability of urban processes. This will be draw on the aerFO (aerosol backscatter forward operator) developed for ceilometers by the Met Office, and enhanced in collaborative research (Warren et al. 2018, 2020, 2022). This project will use new state-of-the-art observations from the ERC Synergy urbisphere project. These include use of new Vaisala CL61 ceilometers, recently tested by the Met Office (Observations Research & Development Remote Sensing team including J. Buxmann), along with CL31 ceilometers (Kotthaus and Grimmond 2018) and Doppler Wind Lidars (Kotthaus et al. 2018) to allow spatial variations in boundary layer characteristics to be determined. At the same time scintillometer measurements will be undertaken giving sensible heat flux measurements (Crawford et al. 2017).

Training opportunities: This project will involve collaboration with both the Met Office and ERC Synergy urbisphere ( Through the latter the student will attend meeting with international partners and have the opportunity to be involved in urbisphere fieldwork, etc.

Eligibility requirements: Project is suitable for students with an excellent degree in physics, mathematics or a closely related environmental or physical science or engineering. Strong programming skills (Python and Fortan) will be beneficial.

Deadline: Until a suitable candidate is found

Architecture, Building & Planning (3) Engineering (12) Environmental Sciences (13) Geography (17) Mathematics (25) Physics (29)

Funding Notes

ERC Synergy grant funded urbisphere (50%), University of Reading (50 %); Case Studentship from the Met Office, Internship with MO; Non-UK resident students can apply but would need to self-fund international fees -


●Crawford B, CSB Grimmond, HC Ward, W Morrison, S. Kotthaus 2017: Spatial and temporal patterns of surface-atmosphere energy exchange in a dense urban environment using scintillometry QJRMS, 143, 703, B, 817–833
●Kotthaus S, CSB Grimmond 2018: Atmospheric Boundary Layer Characteristics from Ceilometer Measurements Part 1: A new method to track mixed layer height and classify clouds QJRMS 144(714) Part A, 1525-1538
●Kotthaus S, CH Halios, JF Barlow, CSB Grimmond 2018: Volume for pollution dispersion: London’s atmospheric boundary layer during ClearfLo observed with two ground-based lidar types Atmospheric Environment 190. 401-414
Liu Y, Z Luo, S Grimmond 2022: Revising the definition of anthropogenic heat flux from buildings: role of human activities and building storage heat flux ACP
●Warren EL, C Charlton-Perez, H Lean, S Kotthaus, S Grimmond 2022: Spatial variability of forward modelled attenuated backscatter in clear-sky conditions over a megacity: Implications for observation network design. QJRMS
●Warren E, C Charlton-Perez, S Kotthaus, F Marenco, C Ryder, B Johnson, D Green, H Lean, S Ballard, S Grimmond 2020: Observed aerosol characteristics to improve forward-modelled attenuated backscatter, Atmospheric Environment, 224, 117177,
●Warren E, C Charlton-Perez, S Kotthaus, H Lean, S Ballard, E Hopkin, S Grimmond 2018: Evaluation of forward-modelled attenuated backscatter using an urban ceilometer network in London under clear-sky conditions Atmospheric Environment 191, 532-547,

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