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Source Inversion for Contaminant Plume Dispersion in Urban Environments Using Building-Resolving Simulations

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  • 1 Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California
  • 2 Atmospheric, Earth and Energy Department, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California
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Abstract

The ability to determine the source of a contaminant plume in urban environments is crucial for emergency-response applications. Locating the source and determining its strength based on downwind concentration measurements, however, are complicated by the presence of buildings that can divert flow in unexpected directions. High-resolution flow simulations are now possible for predicting plume evolution in complex urban geometries, where contaminant dispersion is affected by the flow around individual buildings. Using Bayesian inference via stochastic sampling algorithms with a high-resolution computational fluid dynamics model, an atmospheric release event can be reconstructed to determine the plume source and release rate based on point measurements of concentration. Event-reconstruction algorithms are applied first for flow around a prototype isolated building (a cube) and then using observations and flow conditions from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, during the Joint Urban 2003 field campaign. Stochastic sampling methods (Markov chain Monte Carlo) are used to extract likely source parameters, taking into consideration measurement and forward model errors. In all cases the steady-state flow field generated by a 3D Navier–Stokes finite-element code (FEM3MP) is used to drive thousands of forward-dispersion simulations. To enhance computational performance in the inversion procedure, a reusable database of dispersion simulation results is created. It is possible to successfully invert the dispersion problems to determine the source location and release rate to within narrow confidence intervals even with such complex geometries. The stochastic methodology here is general and can be used for time-varying release rates and reactive flow conditions. The results of inversion indicate the probability of a source being found at a particular location with a particular release rate, thus inherently reflecting uncertainty in observed data or the lack of enough data in the shape and size of the probability distribution. A composite plume showing concentrations at the desired confidence level can also be constructed using the realizations from the reconstructed probability distribution. This can be used by emergency responders as a tool to determine the likelihood of concentration at a particular location being above a threshold value.

Corresponding author address: Fotini Katopodes Chow, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-1710. Email: chow@ce.berkeley.edu

Abstract

The ability to determine the source of a contaminant plume in urban environments is crucial for emergency-response applications. Locating the source and determining its strength based on downwind concentration measurements, however, are complicated by the presence of buildings that can divert flow in unexpected directions. High-resolution flow simulations are now possible for predicting plume evolution in complex urban geometries, where contaminant dispersion is affected by the flow around individual buildings. Using Bayesian inference via stochastic sampling algorithms with a high-resolution computational fluid dynamics model, an atmospheric release event can be reconstructed to determine the plume source and release rate based on point measurements of concentration. Event-reconstruction algorithms are applied first for flow around a prototype isolated building (a cube) and then using observations and flow conditions from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, during the Joint Urban 2003 field campaign. Stochastic sampling methods (Markov chain Monte Carlo) are used to extract likely source parameters, taking into consideration measurement and forward model errors. In all cases the steady-state flow field generated by a 3D Navier–Stokes finite-element code (FEM3MP) is used to drive thousands of forward-dispersion simulations. To enhance computational performance in the inversion procedure, a reusable database of dispersion simulation results is created. It is possible to successfully invert the dispersion problems to determine the source location and release rate to within narrow confidence intervals even with such complex geometries. The stochastic methodology here is general and can be used for time-varying release rates and reactive flow conditions. The results of inversion indicate the probability of a source being found at a particular location with a particular release rate, thus inherently reflecting uncertainty in observed data or the lack of enough data in the shape and size of the probability distribution. A composite plume showing concentrations at the desired confidence level can also be constructed using the realizations from the reconstructed probability distribution. This can be used by emergency responders as a tool to determine the likelihood of concentration at a particular location being above a threshold value.

Corresponding author address: Fotini Katopodes Chow, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-1710. Email: chow@ce.berkeley.edu

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