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Knowledge Base: Model Layout

Basic Layout of ENVI-met

Obviously, it is not possible to describe the complete model design in a few paragraphs. The sketch
above aims to give you an impression over the very basic structure of a microclimate model like
The general design is not only specific to ENVI-met but is used by almost all 3D numerical models.

The Main Model is designed in 3D with 2 horizontal dimensions (x and y) and one vertical dimension
(z). Inside this main model, the typical elements that represent the area of interest are placed:
buildings, vegetation, different types of surfaces. To use a numerical model, the area of interest must
be reduced into grid cells. The smaller one single grid cell is, the finer the resolution of the model is.
On the other hand, making the grid cells small means that more cells are needed to cover a certain
For example, a 100 x 100 m area can be organised in 100 x 100 grid cells of 1 x 1 m each or it can be
organised in 20 x 20 grid cells with 5 x 5 m each. For each simulation, a compromise has to be found
between the accuracy and resolution of the model and the number of treatable grid cells. As a rule of
thumb, reaching 250 x 250 x 30 grid cells (or any other combination such as 120 x 80 x 30,) can be
considered as a large model needing a good amount of CPU time.

As the available numerical power and memory storage is limited, several strategies are used in
ENVI-met to cover as much space as possible by using less grid points as possible. One of these
concepts is the usage of an additional 1D Model. To allow an accurate simulation of boundary layer
processes, it is necessary to extend the model up to a height of 2500 m minimum. As it is not possible
(and not necessary either) to extend the complete 3D model up to this height, the 1D model takes
over the calculation from the top of the 3D model (which is, depending on your model layout,

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normally between 50 and 200 m) and the total model top at 2500 m (see also Total Model Height,
Vertical Grid Layout). In addition, the 1D model provides the vertical profiles of all model variables for
the inflow boundary of the 3D model (see also Lateral Boundary Conditions) .

Another concept of covering more horizontal space without using too much grid cells is the usage of
the Nesting Area.
The nesting area is a band of grid cells surrounding the core of the 3D model. The further the cells
move away from the core of the model, the bigger their size gets. This allows to move the model
borders away from the core without wasting too much calculation cells. Click here to hear more about
Nesting Grids.

Finally the Soil Model is need to calculate the heat transfer from the surfaces into the ground and
vice versa. Also, the hydrological part of the soil model provides important information about the
available water inside the soil. This data is needed to estimate the maximum transpiration of the
vegetation and the available water at the soil surface.

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Vertical Grid Layout

Different to the horizontal grid, the vertical gridding is not too obvious but still as important as the
horizontal grid setup. In 2.5D models, the vertical grid is generated on-the-fly based on the model
settings such as building heights. You can change the settings for the vertical grid setup at any time.
In full 3D models the vertical grid is as fixed once you have created the model. The only way to
change it is to convert the model down to a 2.5D model (and loose all the extra 3D information),
change the grid settings and then re-convert it to 3D. In short, when creating a 3D model you should
think of the vertical grid setup in detail BEFORE you start editing the model.

Concepts of Vertical Grids

For the 3D Main Model, ENVI-met allows two different types of vertical grids: an Equidistant Grid (A),
where all grids, except the lowest five, have an identical vertical extension z, and a Telescoping
Grid (B1,B2 and C) where the grid size expands with the height. The figure below shows the
differences the different types.

Different concepts for organizing the vertical grid layout: (A): Equidistant Grid, (B): Telescoping grid
and (C): Telescoping grid with no extension factor

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Remember that the resolution of your grid (horizontal as well as vertical) should match with the
objects you have in your model. For example, it does not make sense to look at a very complicated
building structure with overhanging building parts and small differences in building heights and then
use a 5 m vertical grid. All of your fine structures will be reduced to a few single blocks!
In Version 3.1 the handling of small objects as been modified a bit to avoid them from
disappearing in a coarse grid mesh.

Grid Version A: Equidistant

The equidistant grid has the same spacing over all vertical layers. Only the lowest box is split in 5
sub-boxes with zs=0.2 z. In the Area Input file, you enter the z for the non-split boxes.
This grid should be used if the model domain is of limited height and the processes in all heights are
nearly of the same interest.

Grid Version B1 and B2: Telescoping

The telescoping grid allows to cover much more height without running out of grid points. This grid
should be used if the model domain has high objects (e.g. skyscrapers) that should be included, but
the processes at the upper parts of the model are of less interest.
In the Area Input File you specify the grid size of the lowest grid box above surface (with is not split
into sub-boxes) and the percentage of increase to the next box (extension factor s).

The vertical grid size $\Delta z$ of a box $k$ can be calculated with

$$ \Delta z(k) = \left[ \left( 1 \frac{s}{100} \right) \right]^{k-1} \cdot \Delta z_{start} $$

where $s$ is the extension factor given in percent and $\Delta z_{start}$ is the user-defined grid size
of the first grid box above ground in case of B1. You can also specify a given height from where the
telescoping should start ($z_T$ in B2 in the figure above). All z-layers below this level will be spaced
with a constant $\Delta z_{start}$, above $z_T$ the telecoping will start as described before.

The maximum increase is 20% because otherwise the 1D Model which extends to 2500 m
height from the top of the 3D model won't fit!

Grid Version C: Telescoping, but without Extending

Although grid C was generated with the telescoping grid method, it is the least telescoping grid
available. To generate a vertical grid without splitting the lowest box into 5 sub-boxes, use the
telescoping grid method with an extension factor of s=0 ! Alternatively, you can use method B2 and
set zT to a very high level not reached in the model. Copyright by Michael Bruse and Team, Printed on 2017/05/19 15:35
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What about the 1D Model?

In the range from the surface up to the height of the 3D model, the vertical layers of the 1D and the
3D model are identical.
Above the height of the 3D model, ENVI-met uses 14 additional layers in the 1D model to reach the
height of 2500 m (which is set constant). The vertical size of these grid boxes are smoothly increasing
with the height. The increase factor is calculated with respect to the actual height of the 3D model top.

Troubles & Annoyances

ENVI-met cannot find a Good Vertical Spacing between the Top of the 3D
Model and 2500 m

This problem can occur when ENVI-met cannot find a possibility to squeeze the remaining 14 grids
between the top of the 3D model and the top of the 1D model at 2500 m according the internal rules.
As a result, the model top will not be exactly at 2500, but a bit above or below that level, depending
on the possible solutions.
Note, that ENVI-met will not use smaller grid cell sizes for the 14 grids in the 1D model than used in
the 3D model.
Also, ENVI-met always looks for a smooth transition between the vertical grid sizes!
Normally, this is not a real problem an the simulation should work fine. However, you should check,
where the top of the 1D model exactly ended in your case (see output).

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Nesting Grids

Why do I need Nesting Grids?

Practically you don't need them. You can restrict your simulation to the main (core) area without
adding any grids as nesting area.
The problem is, that every numerical model, especially 3D models such as ENVI-met are not working
reliably at their model borders and at the grids very close to them. So the best you can do is to move
these borders as far as possible away from your area of interest in the core area.
The reason for these problems is resulting from the fact, that the model cannot calculate real values
for grid points along the borders (and especially not for grid points that are the border). As these
points are missing at least one neighbour grid, only simple assumptions can be used here to obtain
values that can be used in the model. This simple assumption can be that the values are constant at
these grid points (so called closed boundary conditions or forced bc) or that values from inner grid
points are copied to the grids on the border (open boundary conditions). A third method also offered
in ENVI-met is to copy the values from the outflow boundary back to the inflow boundary (cyclic
boundary conditions). For more information please refer to Lateral Boundary Conditions.

Whatever boundary conditions you use, the main problem still is that grid points on or close to a
boundary cannot react on influences in the way grid points in the inner part of the model can. If the
boundaries are supplied with constant values, they cannot react on things going on in the inner part
at all.

We will illustrate this problem by the example of the flow field: Figure A shows the flow field around
two buildings. The flow is entering the model from the right hand side. As you can see, the influence
of the two buildings on the flow field (vortex), especially on the lee side (left, yellow markers) extends
up to the model border. As it was said before, the model cannot solve the normal equations for those
grid cells that are directly at a border. For the example A this means that the lee vortex will not be
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Figure A - Flow around two Buildings with 3 Nesting Grids

Figure B shows a better solution for the problem: Here, the model border is further away from the
central model area and the flow field has re-established its more simple structure as it hits the model
border. Although there is still an influence recognisable, the simple model assumptions used at the
boundaries will be able to ensure a stable numerical simulation.

Figure B: (Better) Flow around two Buildings with 5 Nesting Grids

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The Role of Nesting Grids

The only difference between example A and B is that in (A) we have used only 3 nesting grid cells
around the core domain whereas in (B) 5 of them are used. As the grid size of the nesting grids is
increasing with each grid, the area is extending very fast with each extra Nesting Grid. The grid points
inside the nesting area have an increasing horizontal resolution with

dxy(n 1)=dxy(n) dxy(Main)

where dxy(Main) is the resolution of the main model and n is the first grid of the nesting zone.

The more Nesting Grids you use, the lower is the chance that you will get numerical problems
because one or more of your model boder are interfering with internal model dynamics.

ENVI-met will warn you, if the flow field is not stable after 10 sec of integration time and suggest to
increase the number of Nesting Grids. If you are not sure what causes your problems, you should
always try to increase the number of Nesting Grids to be sure that this is not the point of trouble.

From version 3 on, the number of Nesting Grids is stored in the Area Input File.

Remember: The Gesting Grids are not included in the Output Files by default, so you will
not be able to see troubles there. To see the complete model area, you must include the
nesting grids in the Output Files (see section [NESTINGAREA]).

Soil Information needed for the Nesting Grids

As the Nesting Grids are created only in the internal memory of ENVI-met, you cannot place buildings
on them or edit the soil profile used in the nesting area.
To assign soil profiles to the nesting area, ENVI-met creates a chessboard pattern of two soil profiles
(A and B). These two soils might be of the same type as well as of different types. If, for example, the
area surrounding your model consists of a mixed land use containing both sealed surfaces (roads) and
free surfaces (e.g. loam) you should use a sealed surface for soil profile A and a free surface for soil
profile B.

Handling of Radiation in the Nesting Area

As no buildings are present in the nesting area, the sun radiation can reach the surface without
reduction. This might result in an unrealistic overestimation of the surface temperature in the nesting
area, especially when only sealed surfaces are used as soil profiles. To overcome this problem,
ENVI-met can use radiative values averaged over the main model area instead of the normal radiative
fluxes in the nesting area. To enable this function, use the [NESTINGAREA] section in the
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Total Model Height

What is the Minimum Model Height?

Selecting the correct size of the model domain is a central aspect in successful numerical modelling.
Whereas the horizontal dimension is more or less given by the dimension of your subject of interest,
the vertical height of the model is less obvious and can - if not selected properly - cause major

The height of the 3D model is a result of the number of vertical grid points used as defined in the Area
Input File and grid size plus the method of grid creation (see also Model Layout).

A simple Example: If you have a 30 m building in your model and you choose to have 10 grids with
a grid size of 2 m each, the total model height will be 20 m, or, in other words, your building will look
10 m out of the model domain. This is, of course, not acceptable.

Having 20 grids with 2 m each will result in a model top in 40 m. On the first glance, that seems
sufficient because even the highest building will fit in. But: The upper model boundary acts like barrier
to the model processes. For example, no vertical flow through the upper border is allowed. That
means, that numerically the wind flow has to squeeze in the 10 m gap between the roof of the 30 m
building and the model top at 40 m building. This will result in jet stream effects that have no relation
to the real nature, where no such interaction exists.

Another critical point often missed is plants on roofs: If you place a 10 m tree on a 30 m building,
your tree will end in 40 m height!

Obviously, the model has to end somewhere, but this end must be far enough from the top of the
highest building to minimise such unwanted artificial effects.

Rule of Thumb: The total height in meter should be at least twice the height of the tallest
structure (especially if it is a building) and at least 30 m in total!

What is the Ideal Way to reach a Sufficient Height?

This question cannot be answered in a straight way.

Obviously there are two ways to reach a desired height: Increase the number of vertical grids or
increase the vertical grid size of a grid.
Increasing the number of vertical grids will drastically increase the memory amount occupied and the
time needed for the simulation. The benefit is that you don't need to decrease your spatial resolution
of the model.
Increasing the vertical grid size will save you a certain amount of grid cells and time needed for
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Like for the choice of the horizontal grid resolution and grid dimension, you will have to find a
compromise between both, number of grids used and resolution provided. Also, you might consider
using a telescoping grid instead of an equidistant one if your processes in the higher atmosphere
are of less interest. Click here to hear more about different kinds of vertical grids in ENVI-met.

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Lateral Boundary Conditions

Lateral boundary conditions define the way, the model behaves at its lateral boundaries. This is a very
specific setting and you normally do not need to change these settings.
From Version 4 on, it is recomended to use at least the "Simple Forcing" option for
temperature and humidity. This overcomes almost all problems that have been observed
with the lateral boundaries in the former versions.

What Kind of LBCs are available in ENVI-met?

Three different kinds of LBC can be selected in ENVI-met:

Open LBC: The values of the next grid point close to the border are copied to the border for each
time step
Forced (or closed) LBC: The values of the one dimensional model or from the forcing data are
copied to the border
Cyclic LBC: The values of the downstream model border are copied to the upstream model border

You can choose the LBCs for temperature, humidity and for the turbulence variables. For the flow field,
an open LBC will be used in a non-forced or "Simple-forced" configuration. If you use Forcing (either
Simple Forcing or Full Forcing), the LBCs will be in any case "Forced" so that your pre-defined profils
(temperature, humidity, wind,..) will be copied to the main model.

Which LBC is the best one?

The is no general clue, which LBC is the best for your case. Each LBC type represents some kind of
situation in the model and you have to check which one is the most appropriate assumption for your
case. At the end of this section you will find an illustrated example which might help you in your

The open LBC is the condition with the minimum effect of the model boundary to the inner parts of
the model. For most cases, this is the recommended LBC. But as the open LBC copies the values from
the inner parts of the model to the boundaries, there is a certain danger of numerical instabilities.

The forced LBC is the most stable condition because the mostly independent 1D model is used to
obtain the boundary values which stabilises the 3D model. On the other hand, the 1D profile will have
a significant effect on the data in the main model. If the 1D profile is not representative for your
average conditions, this will cause a certain error. If you use the "Simple Forcing" option, a forced LBC
will be applied for the temperature and the humidity. The values applied to the model border are
taken from your given profile. If you use the "Full Forcing" mode, a forced LBC will be applied to all
variables, that are actually forced in your configuration, including the wind. Copyright by Michael Bruse and Team, Printed on 2017/05/19 15:35
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Finally, the cyclic LBC assumes that the average conditions upstream of your model area (which
produce the inflow profile) are similar to your model area. As the values of the outflow boundary are
copied to the inflow boundary there is also a certain danger of undesired feedback inside the model
which might cause numerical instabilities.

An illustrated example...

The following figures illustrate the effect of the three different possible boundary conditions using the
turbulent exchange coefficient $K_m$ as an example. Although only showing $K_m$ here, the effects
of the LBCs on the other variables such as temperature or humidity are basically the same as for the
turbulent exchange.
For all figures, the simulation settings are exactly the same, except the LBC type for the turbulence
model which was changed.
The wind comes with 3 m/s in 10 m a.g. from the east (right side of the figure). The model
constellation consists of a simple 20 m high building with a moderate dense tree in front. The isolines
are only plotted up to a $K_m$ value of 10 m/s, the isoline distance is 0.3 m/s.

Km distribution for forced/closed LBC

The first figure shows the profile for the "forced" or "closed" LBC, which means that the vertical
profile of the kinetic energy and its dissipation rate calculated in the 1D model is copied directly to
the right model inflow boundary. As it can be seen, the vertical $K_m$ profile of the 1D model looks
significantly different to the average $K_m$ distribution in the 3D model. In the 3D model, the forced
upward and downward flow reduces the diffusive mixing in the air and therefore modifies the Km
profile leading to a zone of more or less height independent $K_m$ values especially in the lee of the
building. In contrast, the undisturbed $K_m$ profil from the 1D model follows more or less the

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boundary layer approximation of

$$ K_m(z)= \kappa \cdot z$$

where $\kappa$ is the von-Karman constant (=0.4) and $z$ is the height in meter above ground.
If this model area would represent a building placed on a flat plane with nothing around, this inflow
profile might be accurate. But if the model domain is neighbored by similar building structures, the
profile of the incoming air is probably more like the profile at the outflow boundary.

The next figure shows the effect of the "open" LBC on the Km distribution. Open LBC means, that the
values of the inner points are copied back to the lateral inflow boundary.

Km distribution for open LBC

Obviously the profile at the inflow boundary is now more similar to the distribution inside the model
area. The "squeezing" effect at the inflow boundary has been reduced. The use of this LBC would
represent a situation where the neighbourhood of the simulation area has a similar structure to the
simulation area but is not very close so that the vertical profile of the turbulence (and of other
variables) can recover to some extend.

Finally, we have a look at the effects of the "cyclic" LBC, which means that the values from the
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Km distribution for cyclic LBC

Now the inflow profile is similar to the average Km distribution inside the main model. This would
represent a situation where the neighbourhood has in average the same structure as the model area
and, in addition and in contrast to the example before, is so close that the modified profile is not
recovering before entering the model area.

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Model Rotation

Using Model Rotation

It can be handy to use a different model orientation than the default one (Y-axis pointing to North).
For example if a street canyon is analysed that has a different orientation, it is not clever to turn the
buildings lining the street into "steps".

As the correct interpretation of the sign of rotation is sometimes a bit tricky, depending on which
perspective you take,have a look at the following sketch:

In the drawing above on the left, no model rotation is applied. The rectangular model domain is
orientated like the map with the left and right sides aligned to the North-South direction.

Now, lets consider that we want to rotate the model area (white square) by 25 clockwise to getter a
better fit to the area we are interested in. So we rotate the area (white square) by 25 out of the
original North-South direction of the map (gray square). That is easy, but look what it makes to the
North-Arrow when we edit our new model area (which will be of course edited in the perspective of
the area, not of the map): The North-Arrow still must point into the original align of the map. so
actually, the North-Arrow in your model will be rotated anti-clockwise if you have a clockwise rotated
model domain!

To change the model orientation, use the ENVI-met SPACES.

All input and output values are referring to the normal co-ordinate system.
A wind direction of 90 degrees for example means that the wind comes from the east. If
the model is rotated, this does not automatically mean that it comes from the right model
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Using Receptors

Purpose of Receptors

The standard Output Files provide data covering the complete model domain in two (surface files) or
three dimensions (atmosphere and soil). Each time, the model saves its state, a new output file is
These files are handy for analyses of the spatial distribution of the different variables, but on the other
hand, there are many thinkable situations, where the user is interested in the temporal development
of variables at certain points inside the Model Area (e.g. to compare them with measurements).
Collecting these point data using the standard Output Files is an undesirable task as the information
needed is hidden between a lot of other data and spread over several files.
The concept of receptors allows to collect data for selected points in the model area in a compact way
without browsing through several files to find the required information.
For each receptor, a snapshot and a time series file is created. The Snapshot Files contain the data at
the receptor at a given time e.g. a vertical profile in case of the Atmospheric File. The time series files
contain the simulation data at the receptor for the complete simulation run (Click here for more
information about the Receptor Files).

You can have up to 100 receptors placed in the Area Input File (or, if needed, in the Configuration File
The Receptor Files are normal ASCII files which can be visualised with standard software products or
using ENVI-view.

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Sources in ENVI-met

This section is very outdated and needs fixing

Using Sources in ENVI-met

Since version 2.5 ENVI-met provides the option to include sources of particulate matter (PM) or inert
gases in the model domain.
The calculation of the dispersion of PM and gas includes the following processes:

Calculation of emission volume based on 24 hourly single values provided

Advection and mixing using an upstream-advection scheme
Sedimentation of particles depending on size and weight
Deposition of PM and gases at solid surfaces (roof, ground surfaces, water)
Deposition of PM and gases at leaf surfaces

In general there are three groups of possible (chemical) components treated in ENVI-met:

1. Particulate Matter
2. CO2
3. all other Gases

For particles, typical aerodynamic parameters such as the settling velocity are calculated. A particle
is supposed to be deposed as soon as it reaches a surface (leaf or ground), no re-release rates are
calculated. Also, no maximum load of surfaces is taken into account.
CO2 is a special component as it is already treated by the vegetation model. Additional sources of CO2
will be added to the vegetation model CO2 prognostic system.
All other gases are treated as inert substances which means that they do not react with other
species or dissolve etc.
To calculate the absorption of gases at the soil surface, on water and at plant leafs, additional
information such as the molecular diffusivity or the Henry's Law Constant are needed. These data are
coded inside ENVI-met and automatically selected depending on the type of gas chosen. In the recent
version ENVI-met supports (see also here):

Carbon oxide
Carbon dioxide
Nitrogen oxide
Nitrogen dioxide
Sulfur dioxide
Hydrogen peroxide

If your component is not included, please chose a gas with a similar behaviour.

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Numerical Treatment and Accuracy

A lot of effort is taken recently to make the numerical solution of the pollutant advection and
dispersion equations as accurate as possible. In ENVI-met a simple upstream advection scheme is
used to calculate the pollutant dispersion. We know, that this scheme has several drawbacks such as
numerical diffusion. On the other hand we have to face the fact, that the calculated wind field in
microscale (which, after all is the basis of the advection process) is not free of divergence. Whatever
spatial resolution one chooses, there are still sections in the flow field (e.g. at sharp corners, in the
center of a vortex) where the flow cannot be resolved correctly resulting in a divergence of the wind
field (more mass is entering a grid cell than leaving it, or the other way round). In combination with
advection, a divergence in the flow field will always result in a local source or sink of the transported
substance. With this "feature" in mind, the sense of introducing more accurate numerical methods to
avoid e.g. numerical diffusion is limited because there is a much bigger problem in the flow field than
in the numerical methods.

In order to realise a model that is able to simulate complete diurnal cycles over several days on a
normal computer, numerical accuracy can only be followed up to a certain level. If you need to have
an extremely accurate simulation of pollutant dispersions, we recommend to use a finite-element
software package. After all, when talking about accuracy of specific modules, remember that the
environment as it is represented in ENVI-met consists of blocks and flat roofs only, which is probably
not realistic, too.

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Flow Problems

Flow Problems: Reason and Handling

With no doubt, flow problems are the number one troublemaker in simulations (at least since the
turbulence model got the smart trouble shooting implemented).

Flow problems are indicated by the ENVI-met message

Updating Flow: Cancelled after XXX Steps

Warning: Flow Module failed to convert Solution! Increase Border

where XXX is the selected maximum amount of iteration steps (normally 200, see Interface, Advanced
Settings Panel).
This message indicates, that ENVI-met is not able to calculate an accurate wind field in the given
model constellation. As a result of this, the model is not mass conserving at one or more points and
will probably produce some kind of fatal error in the next few calculation steps.
Normally one or more of the following points are the reason for this problem:

1. The Model Height is not sufficient

2. The amount of Nesting Grids is not sufficient
3. The Model Geometry is too complex

In case of point 1 or 2, click on the link to hear more about the problem.
In case of point 3, there is no general solution. Probably your model domain is very fragmented. Try to
change the resolution of the model, simplify it or check, if a Model Rotation might improve the

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Turbulence Model

Turbulence Model in ENVI-met

ENVI-met uses the so-called 2-equation Turbulence Kinetic Energy (TKE) Model to predict the
turbulence in the air.
The first equation describes the distribution of the kinetic energy (E) in the air depending on
production, advection, diffusion and destruction:

The second equation is similar but describes the Dissipation Rate of TKE ( or eps):

Finally, the Turbulent Exchange Coefficient Km is a result of both:

As the result of the TKE- equation Km (via Ke and directly) is used as input data for the next
calculation cycle, there is a non-linear feedback loop between the turbulent exchange coefficient and
the TKE- equation. Once Km begins to be unstable, the TKE- equation system will get unstable too,
producing even more unstable Km's in the next loop.
To avoid numerical problems, several mechanisms have been introduced in ENVI-met making the
turbulence model more reliable:

Two-Step Calculation Loops (Initialisation)

Intelligent Troubleshooting via Relaxation Copyright by Michael Bruse and Team, Printed on 2017/05/19 15:35
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Range Limiting

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Instability/ Numerical Errors

The problem...

In complex Model Areas (and sometimes even in configurations you consider as being "simple") you
might experience numerical instabilities from time to time. These instabilities appear as "PANIC
Dumps" (if ENVI-met has detected that something went wrong) or simply as error messages or
crushes of the model. The most frequent error message are "Division by Zero" or "Floating Point
Error". These messages do not contain any useful information except of the general message, that
something went wrong. In fact, "Division by Zero" is most of the times only the end point of a long
chain of problems producing very high or very low (and very wrong) numbers.

Why is it like that...

First of all, remember that you are working with a very complex numerical model. There is a
conceptual difference between error messages you might get from, say, a text-processing program,
and those you get from ENVI-met. Error messages (and the numerical problems which cause these
messages) are inseperably connected with the whole process of numerical modelling. If it would be
possible to construct any Model Area and get guaranteed results, numerical modelling would no
longer be an advanced technology ;). In other words: When you decide to use non-liner models like
ENVI-met, you must be prepared that things are not always running as you would like them to run.
Sometimes models run on the edge of numerical stability and a complex configuration might cause
that they fall over this edge and send you an error message.

What can I do against it?

There are no general rules for solving these problems. If they would exists, they would have been
included in the model. The first step to take is to figure out, what exactly went wrong, or in other
words: which component did cause the problem. To answer this question, it is important to figure out
when/where exactly the problem have occurred. A simulation in ENVI-met consists of several modules
and it is important to identify in which module the error happened. To do so, look at the last outputs
generated by ENVI-met and try to locate the problem using the overview of the model run. Then, click
on the module of which you think it causes the problem to obtain more information and possible
solutions. Copyright by Michael Bruse and Team, Printed on 2017/05/19 15:35
2017/05/19 15:35 25/35 Envi-met

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Longwave Flux Divergence


In ENVI-met versions below V3.1, the effect of longwave flux divergence was taken into account only
for the ground and leaf surfaces, but not for the free air itself. As the longwave fluxes inside urban
environments are very complex and not only driven by vertical fluxes but also by horizontal fluxes, it
was considered to be too complex to be included in the model.
However, recent applications have indicated, that ENVI-met has a tendency to underestimate the
dynamics of the diurnal temperature amplitude. This effect has to reasons:

running ENVI-met in an non-forced (or non-nested) way often underestimates the dynamic of air
temperature because larger regional effects are not taken into account
heating and cooling of air layers due to a divergence of vertical longwave radiation are not included
in the temperature equations

It is not easy to estimate how large the effect of the second aspect alone on the dynamics of air
temperature actually is because several counter-acting mechanisms exists. But it is sure that the
results of ENVI-met have improved after the introduction of the longwave flux divergence.


The effects of longwave flux divergence on air temperature are realised using an additional
source-/sink term in the prognostic equation for air temperature:

Source-/sink term in the prognostic equation of air temperature

Here, Rlw is the absorbed longwave radiation inside the (thin) atmospheric layer. The absorption is a
function of the vapour content of the layer and is calculated from the divergence of the upward and
downward fluxes at the top and the bottom of the layer (see figure below).
The resulting complex equations and vertical integrations can be simplified significantly, if a thermal
isotropy of the atmosphere is assumed. In this case, only three reference temperatures are needed:
the temperature of the air layer concerned, the surface temperature of the underlying soil and the
temperature of the upper atmosphere. Doing so, the problem of longwave flux divergence can be
transformed into a problem of emissity divergence, which can be solved easily when the vapour
contend of the air layers is known. Copyright by Michael Bruse and Team, Printed on 2017/05/19 15:35
2017/05/19 15:35 27/35 Envi-met

Vertical intergration of vapour and longwave fluxes in ENVI-met. Upward flux left, downward flux right

The figure above shows, how the atmospheric layers of ENVI-met are used to calculate the emissivity
of the single layers.
m is the water amount of the respective atmosphere without the layer analysed and m+z is the
amount with the layer counted. The resulting emissivity e can then be calculated from empirical

This formulation does not take into account the effect of horizontal longwave fluxes, nor the effects of
vegetation (only implicitly through air and surface temperatures). But I think it is better than nothing.

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Obtaining Leaf Area Density Data

The Leaf Area Density (LAD) is the portion of

leaf surface ($m^2$) within a volume of air
($m^3$). The formal unit is $$ \frac{ \text{Leaf
surface } (m^2)}{ \text {Reference volume }
(m^3)} $$

In ENVI-met, like in most other models, the LAD is counted one-sided which means that only one side
of the leaf is counted as active surface area. This accounts to the fact, that most plants only have
stoma on one side of the leaf, typically on the back (but there are others as well). So for the exchange
of latent heat ($LE$) it makes sense to count only one side of the leaf as active surface. Also, for the
exchange of sensible heat ($H$), normally only one side is exposed to the wind while the other is in
the lee of the leaf so that its exchange coeficient approaches zero. This is - of course- a simplicifcation
which can be discussed.


One of the most frequently asked questions is "How do I get an LAD profile for my plant?"

First, I have to admit that the original LAD profiles provided by ENVI-met are rather hand made and
based on only a few reference profiles.
There is a very simple but normally also very reliable way of doing it: If you have an idea of the
maximum LAD of your plant, you can model your plant by distributing it over the (normalized) height.
If you have information about the Leaf Area Index LAI, you can do the same plus check if your values
are realistic by summing up the different LAD levels. However, if you need more accurate values,
there are basically two methods to approach the problem: measurements and analytical methods.
Still, neither oth these methods really solves the problem of the 3D structure of the tree (or plant in
general). Trees are normally complex objects that span over several deca-meters with very individual
canopy structures depending on the species of the tree. With the implementation of 3D plants, we
have introduced a basic approach of defining plants as 3D objects. Those still require the defintion of
the $LAD$ values, but you can at least design your tree crown spaces etc.
Recently we are working on the usage of L-Systems to define complex plants in ENVI-met. However,
this work is far from beiing finished and will be a feature of upcoming version of ENVI-met.

Going back to the original issue of determing LAD values, let's have a look at the methods availabe: Copyright by Michael Bruse and Team, Printed on 2017/05/19 15:35
2017/05/19 15:35 29/35 Envi-met

Methodology 1a: Optical Measurements

From ground and from space the Leaf Area Index of the vegetation can be obtained using optical
methods. While this methods is relatively simple and fast, it does not provide information about the
vertical distribution of the leaf area. To obtain this information empirically, the optical sensor must be
placed in different levels inside the vegetation stand. Another method is to pick the leafs from the
tree and measure the leaf area based on the collected material. There is an obvious drawback on the
second approach related to the tree of interest, but it still is an option.

Methodology 1b: Leaf collection

This methode is straight forward and has certain

drawbacks for the tree. You can define your reference
volume (1 cubemeter or less) and then collect all the
leafs that are inside this volume. You place them on a
sheet of paper as close as you can get them and then
calculate the leaf surface area. There are also more
sophisticated methods available using digital image
processing. But as we talk about rude methods here, we
restrict outselves to the very basic approach

You need to do this on different z-levels to get a vertical profile of the LAD.

Methodology 2: Analytical Approaches

Analytical approaches can help in obtaining the LAD distribution especially if the LAI is known. There
are a few papers worth while reading on that aspect:

Meir et al. (2000) provide some ideas how the LAD profile for a tropical rain forest might look like.
Their paper is basically focusing on the measurement of LAD/LAI using a photographic method, but it
is also useful for getting some ideas on LAD for tropical situations.
Attention: The profiles shown in their figures are normalized with the LAI. Before using them as
profiles in ENVI-met, you have to re-calculate the absolute values.

Ross et al. (2000) present an empirical model which allows to calculate the distribution of LAD and
LAI based on different probability functions. First they calculate the stem height of a plant and then
the correlation of the stem height with the stem leaf area. Finally, the stem leaf area is distributed
over the stem height and the LAD profile is calculated. However, this method requires some input
data, namely the distribution coefficients for the leaf area to be known. This approach is especially
useful if the effects of the growing period should be included in the model.

Stadt and Lieffers (2000) show in their paper how they get the plant characteristics for light

ENVI_met. A holistic microclimate model - Copyright by Michael Bruse and Team,
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transmission model for forest stands (MIXLIGHT). Especially Tab. 1 is very useful as it provides values
for the LAD statistical distribution of different species.

Finally, a useful paper is presented by Lalic and Mihailivic (2004), which fits well with the Stadt and
Liefers (2000) paper. Lalic and Mihailivic present a very simple and very general method to obtain an
LAD profile from very few parameters: type, height and max LAD (which could be extracted for
example from the Stadt and Liefers paper).


Meir, P., Grace, J. and Miranda, A. C. (2000): Photographic method to measure the vertical distribution
of leaf area density in forests, Agri.Forrest Met., 102, 105-111

Lalic, B. and Mihailovic, D. T. (2004): An empirical relation describing leaf-area density inside the
forest for environmental modelling, J.Appl. Met. 43(4) 641-645

Stadt, K. J. and Lieffers, V.J (2000): MIXLIGHT: a flexible light transmission model for mixed-species
forest stands, Agri. Forrest Met., 102, 235-252

Ross, J., Ross, V. and Koppel, A. (2000): Estimation of leaf area and its vertical distribution during
growth period, Agri. Forrest Met. 101, 237-246

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Soil water content versus plant vitality

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ENVI-met Knowledgebase Overview

The ENVI-met Knowledge Base aims to explain some of the ENVI-met features and aspects about the
simulation in deeper detail than the basic documentation does. It also is an essence of the different
FAQ and disussions raised in the ENVI-met bulletin board over the time.
You can start browsing & reading here, but you will also find cross-links to the connected Knowledge
Base items in the different topics concerned. Also, occasionally ENVI-met will suggest you to have a
look at some of the items.

If you are frustrated from "Floating Point Errors" or similar, please read Instability/Numerical Errors

The articles are still widly related to V3. Please be patient!

1. Model Layout A Graphical Overview of the ENVI-met Main Structure

2. Vertical Grid Layout Different Methods of constructing the Vertical Grid Layers
3. Nesting Grids How and why use Nesting Grids
4. Total Model Height Some Remarks on the choice of the Model Height
5. Lateral Boundary Conditions What are the Differences between them
6. Model Roatation How and why
7. Using Receptors How and why
8. Sources in ENVI-met Some Remarks
9. Flow Problems Reason and Handling - What to do if the Flow Solution fails
10. Turbulence Model Some Remarks on the Turbulence Model of ENVI-met
11. Instability/Numerical Errors Numerical Problems and how they might be minimized
12. Longwave Flux Divergence Implementation in the Temperature eq. and effects
13. Obtaining Leaf Area Density Data How to get an estimate on the Vertical LAD Distribution of a
14. Soil water content versus plant vitality: Plants are living organism, even in ENVI-met. Talking
about heat stress perdiodes certain things change in the model

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Evaluations & Reviews


A system like ENVI-met generates a huge amount of different data about many different aspects of
the environmental system observed. It is impossible to assess and evaluate all these data in one.
Moreover, a model is a model and the reality is the reality. There is a conceptual difference in both
systems, hence a complex program cannot be "validated" against the reality, even this is often asked

Monitoring and measuring the "real" world is also subject to many pitfalls and uncertainties like the
modelling work. Just because you have read the data from your measurement device does not mean
that this is the reality. A different person with, maybe, a different device, coming just 2 minutes
after you to a location considered as the same spot may read data more different to yours than the
complete model will show in the complete domain.

Therefore we think that validation is a task that may be possible in a controlled environment with a
limited set of variables, but not in a real world environmental system and not in the constellation
simplified model against selective measured point data. Hence, we will use the term evaluation in
the context ENVI-met which is much more open for discussion than a right-or-wrong checklist a
validation would require.

ENVI-met is a pure physical based model. The quality of the model results will, if we neglect
programming errors and conceptual flaws, in the first row depend on the accuracy of the input data
provided. If for example- the material properties do not fit, the model will not calculate the correct
material temperatures for you. It is also completely ok to work with default data from the model. But
don't expect that, for example, the 'Asphalt road' in the default database will match an asphalt road
at your place - and consequently, the calculated values won't be the same as well.

After these lines of warning and disclaiming, next you will find a list of research projects, studies,
papers etc. which we think are representative for the behaviour of ENVI-met as it is today

Evaluation Studies: Urban Microclimate

Energy saving potential of fragmented green spaces due to their

temperature regulating ecosystem services in the summer A
comprehensive paper on quantifing the cooling potential of green spaces applied
to a Chines case study. Includes field studies and model verification. (Applied
Energy, 2016)

Counteracting Urban Heat Island Effects in a Global Climate Change

Scenario This open-access book covers a wide range of adaption and mitigation

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strategies to react on Climate Change scenarios. A row of papers deal with the
application of ENVI-met, but in this comprehensive book with studies all over
Europe there is much more to learn about urban climate and Climate change
influence urban planning. (Editor: Francesco Musco, Springer 2016)

Urban microclimate and outdoor thermal comfort. A proper procedure to

fit ENVI-met simulation outputs to experimental data This paper presents
a very detailed view onto the quality requirements of ENVI-met input data and
analysis the output data both of V3.1 and V4.0 compared to experimental data.
(Sustainable Cities and Society, 2016)

Contribution of trees and grasslands to the mitigation of human heat

stress in a residential district of Freiburg, Southwest Germany A
validation and scenario study on the effects of trees and grasslands to mitigate
climate change impacts. The validation study is based on the 2003 mid-European
heat wave event. (Landscape and Urban Planning, 2016)

Urban Fabric Types and Microclimate Response -Assessment and Design

Improvement A very comprehensive Austrian project on the impact of urban
structures on microclimate based on ENVI-met 4 simulations including evaluation
with measurements. (Projekt Report)

Recent Trends and Remaining Limitations in Urban Microclimate Models

A recent (2015) meta study on the usage of microscale model to simulate urban
climate over the past 10 years. (Open Urban Studies and Demography Journal,

Use And Evaluation of The Envi-met Model for Two Different Urban
Forms in Cairo, Egypt: Measurements and Model Simulations. A
validation study (2013) on the impact of urban desin on thermal comfort in
Egypt. (Conference Paper)

Evaluation of a microclimate model for predicting the thermal

behaviorof different ground surfaces A validation on microclimate
performance in South China. (Building and Environment, 2013)

Urban tree design approaches for mitigating daytime urban heat island
effects in a high-density urban environment Analysis on the efect of
vegetation shading and wind paths on air temperature and radiative temperature
compared with meassurements in Hong Kong. (Energy & Buildings, 2015)

Comparative analysis of green actions to improve outdoor thermal

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heat stress mitigation strategies evaluated for Bilbao, Spain through numerical
simulation. (Urban Climate, 2015)

More studies

Your study is missing? \ Sorry for that- Please drop us an e-mail at office(at)

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