The influence of model resolution on ozone in industrial volatile organic compound plumes

  • Henderson B
  • Jeffries H
  • Kim B
 et al. 
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Regions with concentrated petrochemical industrial activity (e.g., Houston or Baton Rouge) frequently experience large, localized releases of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Aircraft measurements suggest these released VOCs create plumes with ozone (O3) production rates 2-5 times higher than typical urban conditions. Modeling studies found that simulating high O3 productions requires superfine (1-km) horizontal grid cell size. Compared with fine modeling (4-kmin), the superfine resolution increases the peak O3 concentration by as much as 46%. To understand this drastic O3 change, this study quantifies model processes for O3 and "odd oxygen" (Ox) in both resolutions. For the entire plume, the superfine resolution increases the maximum O3 concentration 3% but only decreases the maximum Ox concentration 0.2%. The two grid sizes produce approximately equal Ox mass but by different reaction pathways. Derived sensitivity to oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and VOC emissions suggests resolution-specific sensitivity to NOx and VOC emissions. Different sensitivity to emissions will result in different O3 responses to subsequently encountered emissions (within the city or downwind). Sensitivity of O3 to emission changes also results in different simulated O3 responses to the same control strategies. Sensitivity of O3 to NOx and VOC emission changes is attributed to finer resolved Eulerian grid and finer resolved NOx emissions. Urban NOx concentration gradients are often caused by roadway mobile sources that would not typically be addressed with Plume-in-Grid models. This study shows that grid cell size (an artifact of modeling) influences simulated control strategies and could bias regulatory decisions. Understanding the dynamics of VOC plume dependence on grid size is the first step toward providing more detailed guidance for resolution. These results underscore VOC and NOx resolution interdependencies best addressed by finer resolution. On the basis of these results, the authors suggest a need for quantitative metrics for horizontal grid resolution in future model guidance.

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  • Barron H. Henderson

  • Harvey E. Jeffries

  • Byeong Uk Kim

  • William G. Vizuete

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