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D. L. Westphal, T. R. Holt, S. W. Chang, N. L. Baker, T. F. Hogan, L. R. Brody, R. A. Godfrey, J. S. Goerss, J. A. Cummings, D. J. Laws, and C. W. Hines

Abstract

The Marine Meteorology Division of the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), assisted by the Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center, has performed global and mesoscale reanalyses to support the study of Gulf War illness. Realistic and quantitatively accurate atmospheric conditions are needed to drive dispersion models that can predict the transport and dispersion of chemical agents that may have affected U.S. and other coalition troops in the hours and days following the demolition of chemical weapons at Khamisiyah, Iraq, at approximately 1315 UTC 10 March 1991. The reanalysis was conducted with the navy’s global and mesoscale analysis and prediction systems: the Navy Operational Global Atmospheric Prediction System and the NRL Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Mesoscale Prediction System. A comprehensive set of observations has been collected and used in the reanalysis, including unclassified and declassified surface reports, ship and buoy reports, observations from pibal and rawinsonde, and retrievals from civilian and military satellites. The atmospheric conditions for the entire globe have been reconstructed using the global system at the effective spatial resolution of 0.75°. The atmospheric conditions over southern Iraq, Kuwait, and northern Saudi Arabia have been reconstructed using the mesoscale system at the spatial resolutions of 45, 15, and 5 km. In addition to a baseline reanalysis, perturbation analyses were also performed to estimate the atmospheric sensitivity to observational error and analysis error. The results suggest that the reanalysis has bounded the variability and that the actual atmospheric conditions were unlikely to differ significantly from the reanalysis.

The synoptic conditions at and after the time of the detonation were typical of the transitional period after a Shamal and controlled by eastward-propagating small-amplitude troughs and ridges. On the mesoscale, the conditions over the Tigris–Euphrates Valley were further modulated by the diurnal variation in the local circulations between land, the Persian Gulf, and the Zagros Mountains. The boundary layer winds at Khamisiyah were from NNW at the time of the detonation and shifted to WNW in the nocturnal boundary layer. On the second day, a strong high passed north of Khamisiyah and the winds strengthened and turned to the ESE. During the third day, the region was dominated by the approach and passage of a low pressure system and the associated front with the SE winds veering to NW.

A transport model for passive scalars was used to illustrate the sensitivity to the reanalyzed fields of potential areas of contamination. Transport calculations based on various release scenario and reanalyzed meteorological conditions suggest that the mean path of the released chemical agents was southward from Khamisiyah initially, turning westward, and eventually northwestward during the 72-h period after the demolition. Precipitation amounts in the study area were negligible and unlikely to have an effect on the nerve agent.

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