Vancouver Oakridge - Urban Flux Tower and Water Monitoring Area

by Andreas Christen(1), Tim Oke(1), and James Voogt(2)
with scientific contributions from Nicholas Coops, Ben Crawford, Nicholas Goodwin, Sue Grimmond, Kate Liss, Chad Siemens, and Rory Tooke.

(1) University of British Columbia, Department of Geography, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
(2) University of Western Ontario, Department of Geography, London, ON, Canada.

EPiCC Environmental Prediction in Canadian CitiesIn summer 2008 and 2009, a flux tower was set-up in the highly vegetated residential 'Oakridge' Neigbourhood of the City of Vancouver, Canada. The exchange of energy and water between the city and the atmosphere was continuously monitored using eddy covariance measurements on the tower and complemented by intensive surface observations of water consumption and irrigation at individual homes.

This urban ecology research aims to contribute to the deveopment of new models that will support weather forecasting in cities, conservation of water resources and carbon in the context of sustainable urban design and planning. This research was part of the CFCAS network 'EPiCC - Environmental Prediction in Canadian Cities'.

Interactive panorama from the top of the flux tower at Vancouver-Oakridge, also available in high-resolution for download with labels. Click on image and drag mouse to pan, use ↑ and ↓ keys to zoom in and out.

The flux tower 'Vancouver-Oakridge' is a hydraulic mast equipped with an eddy-covariance system to directly measure the energy and water exchange at 4.4 times the average building height (29m a.g.l.). The tower provided fluxes of net all-wave radiation, sensible and latent heat, and rarely measured mass fluxes of carbon dioxide.

Schematic diagram of the equipment mounted on top of the hydraulic mast. Enlarged version with detailed description of instruments.

The tower was set-up in the front-yard of a school buidling. The footprint of the turbulent fluxes is composed of a typical suburban surface with single-family residences and a high vegetation fraction (56%). The footprint of the radiometer however includes part of the vegetated (and non-irrigated) front yard of the school building.

The EPiCC networks objectives for the Vancouver experiments required data when lawn sprinkling and irrigation are the dominant anthropogenic input of water into the atmosphere, so measurements were taken in July-August 2008 and July-August 2009. In this part of the city, 61% of all lawns have automatic sprinkling systems installed.

Instrumented set-up and water monitoring in the neighborhood of the tower.
> Full Size

The tower measurements were complemented by year-round surface obseravtions and neighborhood-scale water metering in 2009. Several homes have been intensively monitored for 2 years. At the homes we measured water use, space heating requirements, and soil hydrology of the lawns. The lots have been chosen to represent a variety of typical sprinkling systems (automatic, manual, no sprinkling at all) and different building volumes / materials / ages. Each lot is equipped with the system displayed in the figure below:

Lawn Sampling Sites Vancouver Oakridge

Instrumentation of homes in the Oakridge Neighborhood between 2007 and 2009.Enlarged version with detailed description of instruments.

Recent publications:

A. Christen, B. Crawford, N. R. Goodwin, R. Tooke, N. Coops, C. S. B. Grimmond, T. R. Oke, and J. A. Voogt (2009): The EPiCC Vancouver Experiment - how do urban vegetation characteristics and garden irrigation control the local-scale energy balance? Eighth Symposium on the Urban Environment, Phoenix, AZ, Jan 11 to Jan 15, 2009, paper J9.1A

Christen A., Coops N., Crawford B., Liss K., Oke, T. R., Tooke R. (2009): 'The role of soils and lawns in urban-atmopshere exchange of carbon dioxide', 7th International Conference on Urban Climate, Yokahama, Japan, June 29 - July 3, 2009.

B. Crawford, A. Christen, T. R. Oke, J. A. Voogt, and C. S. B. Grimmond (2009): Observations of carbon dioxide fluxes in two suburban neighborhoods in Vancouver, Canada. Eighth Symposium on the Urban Environment, Phoenix, AZ, Jan 11 to Jan 15, 2009, paper J13.1

Technical reports (public access)

Web Link  EPiCC Technical Report #1 - Processing and quality control procedures of turbulent flux measurements during the Vancouver EPiCC experiment.
Web Link  EPiCC Technical Report #2 - Soil properties at the Vancouver EPiCC experimental sites.
Web Link  EPiCC Technical Report #3 - Vegetation characteristics at the Vancouver EPiCC experimental sites.
Web Link  EPiCC Technical Report #4 -Statistics on the built infrastructure at the Vancouver EPiCC experimental sites.



One of the key objectives is to provide a validation data-set for urban energy and water balance modelling of a highly vegetated and heavily irrigated suburban canopy.

Site Characteristics

Longitude / Latitude 123.1329ºW
Height of tower 29m a.g.l
Mean building height 5.8m
Plan area of buildings 25%
Plan area of vegetation 55%
Plan area of impervious ground 20%
Building density 8.0 Bldg. / ha
Tree density 35.3 Stems / ha
Population density 29.3 Inh./ ha

If not stated otherwise, values are given for 500 m radius around tower. Tree stem density and mean building height were determined for a 10°: segment with 1000m radius.

This site on the IAUC Urban Flux Network

Sky-view / vegetation state photos

Data Products

Data preview plots for the Vancouver EPiCC experiment.

Browse through available database entries.

Data Tables

Air Temperature (1.2m) 2007 2008 2009
Soil Temperature (-5cm) 2007 2008 2009
Soil Water Content 2007 2008 2009
Evapotranspiration   2008 2009


Vegetation Samples (2009)
Soil Carbon Sampling Locations (2008/09)


This research activity has been funded by:


The Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciencesas part of the Network Grant 'Environmental Prediction in Canadian Cities' (Oke and Voogt). Selected research infrastructure was supported by NSERC RTI (Christen, #344541-0) and NSERC Discovery Grants (Christen, Oke).

We thank the Vancouver School Board for their permission to use their facilities at Sir William Osler School to operate this unique research infrastructure. The City of Vancouver kindly provided essential water use data for this study.

The following individuals contributed significantly to the success of this experimental campaign: Jonathan Bau (UBC), Adrian Jones (UBC), Rick Ketler (UBC), Ivan Liu (UBC) and Kathryn McCreary (City of Vancouver),