Boundary-Layer Meteorology

, Volume 165, Issue 3, pp 421–445 | Cite as

Large-Eddy Simulations of Atmospheric Flows Over Complex Terrain Using the Immersed-Boundary Method in the Weather Research and Forecasting Model

Research Article


Atmospheric flow over complex terrain, particularly recirculation flows, greatly influences wind-turbine siting, forest-fire behaviour, and trace-gas and pollutant dispersion. However, there is a large uncertainty in the simulation of flow over complex topography, which is attributable to the type of turbulence model, the subgrid-scale (SGS) turbulence parametrization, terrain-following coordinates, and numerical errors in finite-difference methods. Here, we upgrade the large-eddy simulation module within the Weather Research and Forecasting model by incorporating the immersed-boundary method into the module to improve simulations of the flow and recirculation over complex terrain. Simulations over the Bolund Hill indicate improved mean absolute speed-up errors with respect to previous studies, as well an improved simulation of the recirculation zone behind the escarpment of the hill. With regard to the SGS parametrization, the Lagrangian-averaged scale-dependent Smagorinsky model performs better than the classic Smagorinsky model in reproducing both velocity and turbulent kinetic energy. A finer grid resolution also improves the strength of the recirculation in flow simulations, with a higher horizontal grid resolution improving simulations just behind the escarpment, and a higher vertical grid resolution improving results on the lee side of the hill. Our modelling approach has broad applications for the simulation of atmospheric flows over complex topography.


Bolund Hill experiment Complex terrain Immersed-boundary method Large-eddy simulation Weather Research and Forecasting model 



We thank Brian Lamb, Eric Russell, Justine Missik, Zhongming Gao, and Raleigh Grysko for their comments, which greatly improved this work. We are grateful to three anonymous reviewers for their constructive suggestions, which also greatly improved the manuscript. We acknowledge support by National Science Foundation AGS under Grants #1419614. We acknowledge high-performance computing support from Yellowstone (ark:/85065/d7wd3xhc) provided by NCAR’s Computational and Information Systems Laboratory, sponsored by the National Science Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA

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