A project using real-world air pollution data to check the accuracy of an air pollution dispersion model helped Aaron Kaulfus, a UAH doctoral student in atmospheric science, win an award from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).
Kaulfus is scheduled to receive an EPRI environment sector technology transfer award at EPRI’s environment sector advisory meetings next March in Phoenix.
The project, a group effort with EPRI, Southern Company, Ramboll ENVIRON and UAH, had as its goal getting Ramboll’s SCICHEM dispersion model included on the list of models approved for use by the EPA.
“This is a state-of-the-art plume dispersion model,” Kaulfus said. “In most models, if you have a plume it’s just a value in a large grid cell. With this model, we have tiny interactive grid cells that evolve as the plume goes down wind.”
In addition to modeling the chemical reactions going on inside the plume, SCICHEM also captures interactions between different plumes from different sources, or between plumes and background pollution, with the goal of providing more realistic estimates of environmental impact.
“If you know what’s coming out of a power plant or factory, you can simulate the plume and its interactions,” Kaulfus said. “It’s designed to get secondary pollution correct, or as close to correct as we can.”
Kaulfus’ role in the project was to develop 13 cases that could be modeled and tested using data from the SEARCH surface instrument network and from the SENEX 2013 campaign, which looked at the interaction between natural and anthropogenic emissions.
“It’s a pretty grueling process,” he said. “Now I’m assisting with the actual evaluation. They’re running the model and updating it. After they run one of the cases, they shoot me the data, I compare it to the actual data we have from aircraft and ground networks, plot it, look at it, then send it back and we have a discussion about it.”