A majority of the world's urban centers are located in complex terrain, in which local airflow patterns are driven by pressure gradients and thermal forcing, while being strongly influenced by topographic effects and human (anthropogenic) activities. A paradigm in this context is a city located in a valley surrounded by mountains, slopes, and escarpments, in which the airflow is determined by terrain-induced perturbations to synoptic (background) flow, mesoscale thermal circulation (valley/slope flows) generated by local heating or cooling, and by their interaction with factitious (e.g., buildings and roads) and natural (e.g., vegetation and terrain) elements. The dynamics of airflows intrinsic to urban areas in complex terrain is reviewed here by employing idealized flow configurations to illustrate fundamental processes. Urban flows span a wide range of space and time scales and the emphasis here is on mesoscales (1–100 km). Basic fluid dynamics plays a central role in explaining observations of urban flow and in developing subgrid parameterizations for predictive models.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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