In this study, we present a meso-scale simulation of the urban microclimate in Berlin, Germany, using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) numerical weather prediction platform. The objective of the study is to derive an accurate estimate of the near-surface urban heat island (UHI) intensity. The simulation is conducted over a two-week summer period. We compare different physical schemes, different urban canopy schemes and different methods for estimating the UHI intensity. The urban fraction of each urban category is derived using the Copernicus Impervious Density data and the Corine Land Cover data. High-resolution City Geography Markup Language (CityGML) data is used to estimate the building height densities required by the multi-layer urban canopy model (UCM). Within the single-layer UCM, we implement an anthropogenic heat profile based on the large scale urban consumption of energy (LUCY) model. The optimal model configuration combines the WRF Single Moment Five-Class (WSM5) microphysics scheme, the Bougeault–Lacarrère planetary boundary layer scheme, the eta similarity (Mellor–Yamada–Janjic) surface layer scheme, the Noah Multi-Parameterization land surface model, the Dudhia and Rapid Radiative Transfer Model (RRTM) radiation schemes, and the multi-layer UCM (including the building energy model). Our simulated UHI intensity results agree well with measurements with a root mean squared error of
and a mean bias error of
. After model validation, we proceed to compare several UHI intensity calculation methods, including the ‘ring rural reference’ (RRR) method and the ‘virtual rural reference’ (VRR) method. The VRR mthod is also known as the ‘urban increment’ method. We suggest and argument that the VRR approach is superior.
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