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Urbanization changes the radiative, thermal, hydrologic, and aerodynamic properties of the Earth's surface. Knowledge of these surface characteristics, therefore, is essential to urban climate analysis. Aerodynamic or surface roughness of urban areas is not well documented, however, because of practical constraints in measuring the wind profile in the presence of large buildings. Using an empirical method designed by Lettau, and an analysis of variance of surface roughness values calculated for 324 samples averaging 0.8 hectare (ha) of land use and land cover sample in Baltimore, Md., a strong statistical relation was found between aerodynamic roughness and urban land use and land cover types. Assessment of three land use and land cover systems indicates that some of these types have significantly different surface roughness characteristics. The tests further indicate that statistically significant differences exist in estimated surface roughness values when categories (classes) from different land use and land cover classification systems are used as surrogates. A Level III extension of the U.S. Geological Survey Level II land use and land cover classification system provided the most reliable results. An evaluation of the physical association between the aerodynamic properties of land use and land cover and the surface climate by numerical simulation of the surface energy balance indicates that changes in surface roughness within the range of values typical of the Level III categories induce important changes in the surface climate.
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Relationships between aerodynamic roughness and land use and land cover in Baltimore, Maryland