- Urban trees differ from shorter vegetation because they provide shade and shelter.
- A multi-layer urban canopy model that assesses built-tree interactions is developed.
- The new model represents climate impacts of trees at pedestrian-level across cities.
- The new model is evaluated at two scales using novel datasets from three cities.
- Urban trees impact local climate via multiple interacting physical mechanisms.
Vegetation alters urban climates via transpirational cooling; however, unlike shorter vegetation, trees additionally provide shade and shelter. Urban canopy models (UCMs) are coupled with mesoscale models for assessment of neighbourhood-scale climate, but their representation of urban trees is limited. We present BEP-Tree, a multi-layer UCM that integrates trees instead of using the ‘tile’ approach that characterizes most urban mesoscale modelling. BEP-Tree resolves the microclimate underneath trees where outdoor human thermal exposure occurs; these conditions are largely inaccessible to current mesoscale modelling and remote sensing approaches. Moreover, BEP-Tree allows trees to protrude above buildings, enabling assessment of low-rise neighbourhoods. The new model combines existing models, including detailed radiative and hydrodynamic models that assess built-tree interactions, and includes new parameterizations for impacts of tree foliage distribution. BEP-Tree is evaluated against unique datasets from three cities enabling assessment of modelled radiation, energy exchanges and road and air temperatures across the diurnal cycle. Urban trees redirect sensible heat into latent heat and reduce pedestrian-level solar radiation, wind, and temperatures during daytime. Thermal climate and energy exchanges are more sensitive to street tree density than height. Coupled with a mesoscale model, BEP-Tree enables assessment of urban forest-induced neighbourhood-to-city scale climate impacts during fair weather periods.