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Determining the Sources of Regional Haze in the Southeastern United States Using the CMAQ Model

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  • 1 School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia
  • | 2 Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division, Atlanta, Georgia
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Abstract

A detailed sensitivity analysis was conducted to help to quantify the impacts of various emission control options in terms of potential visibility improvements at class I national parks and wilderness areas in the southeastern United States. Particulate matter (PM) levels were estimated using the Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) model, and light extinctions were calculated using the modeled PM concentrations. First, likely changes in visibility at class I areas were estimated for 2018. Then, using emission projections for 2018 as a starting point, the sensitivity of light extinction was evaluated by reducing emissions from various source categories by 30%. Source categories to be analyzed were determined using a tiered approach: any category that showed significant impact in one tier was broken into subcategories for further analysis in the next tier. In the first tier, sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides, ammonia, volatile organic compound, and primary carbon emissions were reduced uniformly over the entire domain. During summer, when most class I areas experience their worst visibility, reduction of SO2 emissions was the most effective control strategy. In the second tier, SO2 sources were separated as ground level and elevated. The elevated sources in 10 southeastern states were differentiated from those in the rest of the domain and broken into three subcategories: coal-fired power plant (CPP), other power plant, and other than power plant [i.e., non–electric generating unit (non EGU)]. The SO2 emissions from the CPP subcategory had the largest impact on visibility at class I areas, followed by the non-EGU subcategory. In the third tier, emissions from these two subcategories were further broken down by state. Most class I areas were affected by the emissions from several states, indicating the regional nature of the haze problem. Here, the visibility responses to all of the aforementioned emission reductions are quantified and deviations from general trends are identified.

* Current affiliation: MACTEC Federal Programs, Inc., Trenton, New Jersey

Corresponding author address: M. T. Odman, Georgia Institute of Technology, 311 Ferst Dr., Atlanta, GA 30332-0512. Email: odman@gatech.edu

This article included in the NOAA/EPA Golden Jubilee special collection.

Abstract

A detailed sensitivity analysis was conducted to help to quantify the impacts of various emission control options in terms of potential visibility improvements at class I national parks and wilderness areas in the southeastern United States. Particulate matter (PM) levels were estimated using the Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) model, and light extinctions were calculated using the modeled PM concentrations. First, likely changes in visibility at class I areas were estimated for 2018. Then, using emission projections for 2018 as a starting point, the sensitivity of light extinction was evaluated by reducing emissions from various source categories by 30%. Source categories to be analyzed were determined using a tiered approach: any category that showed significant impact in one tier was broken into subcategories for further analysis in the next tier. In the first tier, sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides, ammonia, volatile organic compound, and primary carbon emissions were reduced uniformly over the entire domain. During summer, when most class I areas experience their worst visibility, reduction of SO2 emissions was the most effective control strategy. In the second tier, SO2 sources were separated as ground level and elevated. The elevated sources in 10 southeastern states were differentiated from those in the rest of the domain and broken into three subcategories: coal-fired power plant (CPP), other power plant, and other than power plant [i.e., non–electric generating unit (non EGU)]. The SO2 emissions from the CPP subcategory had the largest impact on visibility at class I areas, followed by the non-EGU subcategory. In the third tier, emissions from these two subcategories were further broken down by state. Most class I areas were affected by the emissions from several states, indicating the regional nature of the haze problem. Here, the visibility responses to all of the aforementioned emission reductions are quantified and deviations from general trends are identified.

* Current affiliation: MACTEC Federal Programs, Inc., Trenton, New Jersey

Corresponding author address: M. T. Odman, Georgia Institute of Technology, 311 Ferst Dr., Atlanta, GA 30332-0512. Email: odman@gatech.edu

This article included in the NOAA/EPA Golden Jubilee special collection.

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