Near-Surface Wind Predictions in Complex Terrain with a CFD Approach Optimized for Atmospheric Boundary Layer Flows

Friday, 19 December 2014: 2:52 PM
Natalie S Wagenbrenner1, Jason Forthofer1, Bret Butler1 and Kyle Shannon2, (1)Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT, United States, (2)GCS Research, Missoula, MT, United States
Near-surface wind predictions are important for a number of applications, including transport and dispersion, wind energy forecasting, and wildfire behavior. Researchers and forecasters would benefit from a wind model that could be readily applied to complex terrain for use in these various disciplines. Unfortunately, near-surface winds in complex terrain are not handled well by traditional modeling approaches. Numerical weather prediction models employ coarse horizontal resolutions which do not adequately resolve sub-grid terrain features important to the surface flow. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) models are increasingly being applied to simulate atmospheric boundary layer (ABL) flows, especially in wind energy applications; however, the standard functionality provided in commercial CFD models is not suitable for ABL flows. Appropriate CFD modeling in the ABL requires modification of empirically-derived wall function parameters and boundary conditions to avoid erroneous streamwise gradients due to inconsistences between inlet profiles and specified boundary conditions. This work presents a new version of a near-surface wind model for complex terrain called WindNinja. The new version of WindNinja offers two options for flow simulations: 1) the native, fast-running mass-consistent method available in previous model versions and 2) a CFD approach based on the OpenFOAM modeling framework and optimized for ABL flows. The model is described and evaluations of predictions with surface wind data collected from two recent field campaigns in complex terrain are presented. A comparison of predictions from the native mass-consistent method and the new CFD method is also provided.