Stochastic backscatter modelling for the prediction of pollutant removal from an urban street canyon: a large-eddy simulation

James O'Neill, Xiaoming Cai, Robert Kinnersley

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7 Citations (Scopus)
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The large-eddy simulation (LES) approach has recently exhibited its appealing capability of capturing turbulent processes inside street canyons and the urban boundary layer aloft, and its potential for deriving the bulk parameters adopted in low-cost operational urban dispersion models. However, the thin roof-level shear layer may be under-resolved in most LES set-ups and thus sophisticated subgrid-scale (SGS) parameterisations may be required. In this paper, we consider the important case of pollutant removal from an urban street canyon of unit aspect ratio (i.e. building height equal to street width) with the external flow perpendicular to the street. We show that by employing a stochastic SGS model that explicitly accounts for backscatter (energy transfer from unresolved to resolved scales), the pollutant removal process is better simulated compared with the use of a simpler (fully dissipative) but widely-used SGS model. The backscatter induces additional mixing within the shear layer which acts to increase the rate of pollutant removal from the street canyon, giving better agreement with a recent wind-tunnel experiment. The exchange velocity, an important parameter in many operational models that determines the mass transfer between the urban canopy and the external flow, is predicted to be around 15% larger with the backscatter SGS model; consequently, the steady-state mean pollutant concentration within the street canyon is around 15% lower. A database of exchange velocities for various other urban configurations could be generated and used as improved input for operational street canyon models.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-18
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Early online date9 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


  • Large-eddy simulation
  • Roof-level shear layer
  • Stochastic backscatter modelling
  • Street canyon
  • Urban canopy air pollution


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