Direct sensitivity techniques in regional air quality models: development and application
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Sensitivity analysis based on a chemical transport model (CTM) serves as an important approach towards better understanding the relationship between trace contaminant levels in the atmosphere and emissions, chemical and physical processes. Previous studies on ozone control identified the high-order Decoupled Direct Method (HDDM) as an efficient tool to conduct sensitivity analysis. Given the growing recognition of the adverse health effects of fine particulate matter (i.e., particles with an aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5)), this dissertation presents the development of a HDDM sensitivity technique for particulate matter and its implementation it in a widely used CTM, CMAQ. Compared to previous studies, two new features of the implementation are 1) including sensitivities of aerosol water content and activity coefficients, and 2) tracking the chemical regimes of the embedded thermodynamic model. The new features provide more accurate sensitivities especially for nitrate and ammonium. Results compare well with brute force sensitivities and are shown to be more stable and computationally efficient. Next, this dissertation explores the applications of HDDM. Source apportionment analysis for the Houston region in September 2006 indicates that nonlinear responses accounted for 3.5% to 33.7% of daily average PM2.5, and that PM2.5 formed rapidly during night especially in the presence of abundant ozone and under stagnant conditions. Uncertainty analysis based on the HDDM found that on average, uncertainties in the emissions rates led to 36% uncertainty in simulated daily average PM2.5 and could explain much, but not all, of the difference between simulated and observed PM2.5 concentrations at two observations sites. HDDM is then applied to assess the impact of flare VOC emissions with temporally variable combustion efficiency. Detailed study of flare emissions using the 2006 Texas special inventory indicates that daily maximum 8-hour ozone at a monitoring site can increase by 2.9 ppb when combustion is significantly decreased. The last application in this dissertation integrates the reduced form model into an electricity generation planning model, and enables representation of geospatial dependence of air quality-related health costs in the optimization process to seek the least cost planning for power generation. The integrated model can provide useful advice on selecting fuel types and locations for power plants.