Boundary-Layer Meteorology

, Volume 165, Issue 3, pp 385–404 | Cite as

A Modulated-Gradient Parametrization for the Large-Eddy Simulation of the Atmospheric Boundary Layer Using the Weather Research and Forecasting Model

  • Sina Khani
  • Fernando Porté-Agel
Research Article


The performance of the modulated-gradient subgrid-scale (SGS) model is investigated using large-eddy simulation (LES) of the neutral atmospheric boundary layer within the weather research and forecasting model. Since the model includes a finite-difference scheme for spatial derivatives, the discretization errors may affect the simulation results. We focus here on understanding the effects of finite-difference schemes on the momentum balance and the mean velocity distribution, and the requirement (or not) of the ad hoc canopy model. We find that, unlike the Smagorinsky and turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) models, the calculated mean velocity and vertical shear using the modulated-gradient model, are in good agreement with Monin–Obukhov similarity theory, without the need for an extra near-wall canopy model. The structure of the near-wall turbulent eddies is better resolved using the modulated-gradient model in comparison with the classical Smagorinsky and TKE models, which are too dissipative and yield unrealistic smoothing of the smallest resolved scales. Moreover, the SGS fluxes obtained from the modulated-gradient model are much smaller near the wall in comparison with those obtained from the regular Smagorinsky and TKE models. The apparent inability of the LES model in reproducing the mean streamwise component of the momentum balance using the total (resolved plus SGS) stress near the surface is probably due to the effect of the discretization errors, which can be calculated a posteriori using the Taylor-series expansion of the resolved velocity field. Overall, we demonstrate that the modulated-gradient model is less dissipative and yields more accurate results in comparison with the classical Smagorinsky model, with similar computational costs.


Atmospheric boundary layer Large-eddy simulation Subgrid-scale modelling Weather Research and Forecasting model 



The paper benefited from the comments of five anonymous reviewers. This research was supported by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (OFEN) and the Swiss Innovation and Technology Committee (CTI) within the context of the Swiss Competence Center for Energy Research ‘FURIES: Future Swiss Electrical Infrastructure’. Computing resources from Scientific IT and Application Support (SCITAS) at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) are gratefully appreciated. Sina Khani gratefully acknowledges financial support from the Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (AOS) program at Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wind Engineering and Renewable Energy Laboratory (WiRE)École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)LausanneSwitzerland
  2. 2.Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic SciencesPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA

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