Articles | Volume 16, issue 9
Research article
12 May 2016
Research article |  | 12 May 2016

Impact of buildings on surface solar radiation over urban Beijing

Bin Zhao, Kuo-Nan Liou, Yu Gu, Cenlin He, Wee-Liang Lee, Xing Chang, Qinbin Li, Shuxiao Wang, Hsien-Liang R. Tseng, Lai-Yung R. Leung, and Jiming Hao

Abstract. The rugged surface of an urban area due to varying buildings can interact with solar beams and affect both the magnitude and spatiotemporal distribution of surface solar fluxes. Here we systematically examine the impact of buildings on downward surface solar fluxes over urban Beijing by using a 3-D radiation parameterization that accounts for 3-D building structures vs. the conventional plane-parallel scheme. We find that the resulting downward surface solar flux deviations between the 3-D and the plane-parallel schemes are generally ±1–10 W m−2 at 800 m grid resolution and within ±1 W m−2 at 4 km resolution. Pairs of positive–negative flux deviations on different sides of buildings are resolved at 800 m resolution, while they offset each other at 4 km resolution. Flux deviations from the unobstructed horizontal surface at 4 km resolution are positive around noon but negative in the early morning and late afternoon. The corresponding deviations at 800 m resolution, in contrast, show diurnal variations that are strongly dependent on the location of the grids relative to the buildings. Both the magnitude and spatiotemporal variations of flux deviations are largely dominated by the direct flux. Furthermore, we find that flux deviations can potentially be an order of magnitude larger by using a finer grid resolution. Atmospheric aerosols can reduce the magnitude of downward surface solar flux deviations by 10–65 %, while the surface albedo generally has a rather moderate impact on flux deviations. The results imply that the effect of buildings on downward surface solar fluxes may not be critically significant in mesoscale atmospheric models with a grid resolution of 4 km or coarser. However, the effect can play a crucial role in meso-urban atmospheric models as well as microscale urban dispersion models with resolutions of 1 m to 1 km.

Short summary
We examine the impact of buildings on surface solar fluxes in Beijing by accounting for their 3-D structures. We find that inclusion of buildings changes surface solar fluxes by within ±1 W m−2, ±1–10 W m−2, and up to ±100 W m−2 at grid resolutions of 4 km, 800 m, and 90 m, respectively. We can resolve pairs of positive-negative flux deviations on different sides of buildings at ≤ 800 m resolutions. We should treat building-effect on solar fluxes differently in models with different resolutions.
Final-revised paper