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Atmospheric Modeling and Analysis Research

Research in Action

Fine-Scale Atmospheric Modeling for Use in Human Exposure and Health Studies

Issue

Air pollution has a wide range of impacts, and to protect human health, these impacts have to be managed at local, urban, and state scales. Scientists need a combination of tools in order to tell the “multipollutant” story of air pollution — that is, to provide a comprehensive picture of how air pollution affects our environment and our health, and to help risk assessors understand how exposure to multiple air pollutants from multiple sources occurs at local to state scales.

Action

EPA scientists are developing pollutant dispersion models that simulate the way pollutants move through and collect in ambient air. These include simulations based on gridded maps of local areas and states, and approaches based on “plumes” from pollutant sources.

This transdisciplinary research involves the development, refinement, and evaluation of models, approaches and tools for addressing science questions at local scales. Sscientists are using their research to develop complementary analysis tools, which will be linked with effects and benefits models to help develop sustainable solutions at local to state scales. 

Major research elements of this project include:

  • Tiered modeling system— EPA scientists are designing and building a new modeling system to accurately and efficiently estimate air pollution concentrations near emissions sources and at city-wide scales, which can then be linked in a hybrid modeling system to observational data. This will provide scientists with a much clearer picture of how concentrations of air pollutants differ across regions and states, which will allow for better modeling of human exposure and associated risks. 
  • Fine-grid /Urban-scale air quality modeling — EPA scientists are refining the capability of EPA’s Community Multi-scale Air Quality Model (CMAQ) so that it can provide fine-grid estimates of local air pollution concentrations for exposure and health studies. This is a challenging problem because of the need for extremely high-resolution data. At small scales modeling becomes more challenging due to inherent uncertainties involved in simulating very fine details. EPA scientists are exploring on-line meteorology to provide up-to-the-minute meteorological inputs for the CMAQ model.

Results and Impacts

The project outputs will provide local, state and regional air quality managers with enhanced science and a new suite of modeling tools and approaches for developing and implementing ambient air quality policy. The model results will also be used by EPA and other health scientists to more fully understand the relationship between emissions and air pollution health effects.

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