Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

Laboratory for Atmospheric Research

Regional Air Quality

Beginning in the early 1990's, LAR initiated development of gridded numerical regional modeling systems. In addition to modeling, measurements are also conducted during short time-scale, intensive, multi-institutional field campaigns, or over long time periods in collaboration with regulatory fixed monitoring sites. The combination of measurements and modeling provides ground-truth data for the modeling systems, which enables LAR to validate and improve many of the current models. The majority of the regional air quality modeling done at LAR uses the MM5 meso-scale meteorological model, the SMOKE emissions processing system to supply appropriate emission inventory data files, and the EPA Community Multi-Scale Air Quality Model (CMAQ) for transport and chemistry.



Beginning in 2001, LAR has operated an automated numerical air-quality forecasting system to provide daily forecasts of ozone and particulate matter (PM) concentrations for the Pacific Northwest as part of the Air Indicator for Public Access and Community Tracking (AIRPACT). The most recent version, AIRPACT-5, provides daily forecasts for the entirety of Idaho, Oregon and Washington states using a 4-km grid.

AIRPACT cloud cover



To support smoke managers in eastern Washington and northern Idaho in making decisions about the advisability of agricultural field burning with respect to the effect on air quality, LAR developed an integrated meteorology, emissions, and plume dispersion modeling system (ClearSKY) to predict smoke concentrations based on user-defined field-burning scenarios.

agricultural field burn

Satellites and Remote Sensing

Satellites and Remote Sensing

LAR has been intimately involved in developing a satellite- based instrument to measure air pollutants remotely. Now deployed on the Aura satellite, the Dutch Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) has global coverage, with a sufficiently fine spatial resolution to track O3 and NO2 plumes on urban and regional scales.

LAR faculty, in collaboration with researchers at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, are now working to build a prototype instrument that will measure pollutants continu- ously from space with even greater precision than the OMI.

OMI flight instrument
Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI)

The new instrument would be capable of accurately measuring pollution in 1 km x 1 km footprints over an area the size of the Pacific Northwest. The instrumentation will be on a satellite put into geostationary orbit. At 36,000 kilometers above the earth's surface, the satellite will revolve around the Earth at the same rate as the Earth itself rotates, and so will remain stable above one part of the earth, thus allowing continual viewing of a regional urban airshed and surroundings, rather than the snapshots obtained from a standard polar orbiting satellite instrument.

Pacific Northwest Air Toxics

Air Toxics in the Pacific Northwest

In a series of studies funded by EPA through the Washington Dept of Ecology and also the Nez Perce tribe, WSU has conducted measurement campaigns to determine local levels of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs). These include sampling from fixed sites on a 1 in 6 day rotation to determine 24 hr average concentrations for a range of volatile organic compound HAPS as well as PM2.5 species. Initially, sampling was conducted in the Seattle urban area at a number of sites and, more recently, in Spokane and the Lewiston-Clarkston area.

Air Toxics - mobile sampler

For Spokane and Lewiston/Clarkston, field measurements were also collected using a mobile laboratory fitted with a Proton Transfer Reaction Mass Spectrometer, a pair of PAH instruments, and other meteorological and pollutant sensors. Together, the data from the fixed site and mobile sampling studies provide a measure of the exposure of urban populations to a wide range of HAPs.

Civil & Environmental Engineering, PO Box 642910, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-2910, 509-335-2576