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Back Trajectory Modeling - Colorado State University - american airguns trajectory calculator

Back Trajectory Modeling

In support of WRAP’s Causes of Haze project, DRI generated meteorological back trajectories for IMPROVE monitoring sites. Back trajectory analyses use interpolated measured or modeled meteorological fields to estimate the most likely central path over geographical areas that provided air to a receptor at a given time. The method essentially follows a parcel of air backward in hourly steps for a specified length of time. Back trajectories are an oversimplification of the atmosphere in that dispersion is not accounted for and the potential source areas contributing to a receptor are underestimated for any given trajectory. A commonly used trajectory model is the Hybrid-Single Particle Lagrangian Integrated Trajectory (HYSPLIT) model developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Air Resources Laboratory (ARL). HYSPLIT uses archived 3-dimensional meteorological fields generated from observations and short-term forecasts. HYSPLIT can be run to generate forward or backward trajectories using several available meteorological data archives.

The data archives used in this analysis were the National Weather Service's National Centers for Environmental Prediction Eta Data Assimilation System (EDAS) and NOAA’s Air Resources Laboratory (ARL) FNL Archive. The EDAS fields, used for the continental U.S. sites, are archived by the ARL at a horizontal resolution of 80 km (40 km beginning in 2004) across the continental U.S., plus a buffer zone. The domain of these fields does not include Alaska or Hawaii. The FNL fields, used for Alaska and Hawaii, are archived by the ARL at a horizontal resolution of 190 km over the entire hemisphere. Detailed information regarding the trajectory model and these data sets can be found on NOAA’s Web site (http://www.arl.noaa.gov/ready/hysplit4.html).

In general, higher resolution fields are desirable to capture smaller scale flow features. Both the EDAS and FNL meteorological input fields represent large-scale flows and cannot accurately represent local to mesoscale phenomena such as topographically influenced flow, nocturnal jets, and seabreeze/landbreeze. Even the 80 km resolution of the EDAS data set is not sufficient to accurately represent flow over complex terrain. In some cases systematic biases may occur that could lead to invalid conclusions regarding source-receptor relationships. DRI did not conduct an evaluation of the meteorological fields used in this analysis, but did recommend an evaluation be considered in future work. This analysis assumes the errors are random and regional to large-scale transport patterns are reasonably accurate averaged over a significant number of trajectories.

Eight back trajectories per day, spanning the baseline period (2000 – 2004), were computed for each WRAP Class I area with an IMPROVE sampling site. The major model parameters selected for this analysis include those listed in Table 1. The choice of these parameters affects the trajectories generated and the final attribution analyses based on them. In particular, trajectories tend to become increasingly uncertain the further back in time they are used. A duration of eight days was chosen to represent a compromise between higher certainty (shorter duration) and expected atmospheric lifetime of sulfate aerosols (1-2 weeks). Vertical motion in the model is sometimes best represented by following actual vertical motion measurements (represented by model data), surfaces of constant entropy, or surfaces of constant pressure, depending on the meteorological conditions at a given location and time. The impact of receptor height (or end height) on an individual trajectory is also important. Low-ending trajectories represent air parcels nearer ground level, and consequently nearer the ground-based samplers. High-ending trajectories may represent more accurate boundary layer flow above the local terrain. Trajectory heights are not constant throughout the trajectory duration and often vary considerably from the receptor height selected. Consequently, trajectories generated for the same location and time but with different receptor heights may indicate significantly different flow patterns for part of or the entire trajectory. The choice of different meteorological fields can yield dissimilar result as well.

Table 1
Back Trajectory Model Parameters Selected for AoH Analysis

|Model Parameter |Value |
|Trajectory duration |192 hours (8 days) backward in time |
|Top of model domain |14,000 meters |
|Vertical motion option |used model data |
|Receptor height |500 meters |
|Meteorological Field |EDAS and FNL (location dependent) |

Based on the three years (2000-02) and five years (2000-04) of individual back trajectories, DRI generated residence time maps. Residence time analysis computes the amount of time (e.g., number of hours) or percent of time an air parcel is in a horizontal grid cell. Plotted on a map, residence time is shown as percent of total hours in each one-degree latitude by one-degree longitude grid cell across the domain. A sample residence time map is presented in Figure 1. The values associated with each color in the map legend are percentages (e.g., the residence time associated with the dark blue cells fall in the range 0.28 to 0.84%). Because there are so many grid cells, the percent values are low for any given cell, but the difference in fractional values from region to region is important. Residence time over an area is indicative of general flow patterns, but does not necessarily imply the area contributed significantly to haze compounds at a receptor site since it does not account for emissions and removal processes. Residence time maps should be used in conjunction with emissions information to relate emissions and transport to components of haze at the receptor sites. DRI generated other types of back trajectory summary maps which can be useful in better understanding source attribution. The set of maps are available on DRI’s Causes of Haze Web site (http://coha.dri.edu/web/general/trajgallery/trajmapgallery.html) and include:

• 3-year total residence time maps (described above).
• Monthly total residence time maps – similar to the 3-year maps, but broken out into months to display seasonality of the site’s and region’s meteorology.
• Residence time maps associated with the days showing the 20% best and worst extinction and individual species mass during the 3-year period.
• Residence time difference maps, depicting the difference between all days and the 20% worst extinction and individual species mass during the 3-year period. Positive (negative) values on the map indicate the residence time on the 20% worst days was greater than (less than) on all days.
• Conditional probability maps, depicting the ratio of the residence time for the 20% worst days to all days. A conditional probability value of 2 (0.5) means that the residence time over an area on worst sulfate days is twice (half) as frequent as on all days.

The 5-year residence time fields were used by the Attribution of Haze project’s Weighted Emissions Potential analysis, which can be found on the TSS Areas of Interest page.


Figure 1. Back trajectory residence time map for Great Sand Dunes NP. The total residence time is presented in percent for 1 degree grid cells. The model parameters used to generate the back trajectories for this map are described in the text.

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