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Methods for sulfate air quality management with applications to Los Angeles


Cass, Glen Rowan (1978) Methods for sulfate air quality management with applications to Los Angeles. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/WWJR-PJ15.


Particulate sulfate air pollutants contribute to visibility deterioration and are of current public health concern. This study develops the technical understanding needed for sulfate air quality control strategy design. Methods which link sulfate air quality and air quality impacts on visibility to the cost of controlling sulfur oxides air pollutant emissions are presented. These techniques are tested by application to the Los Angeles Basin over the years 1972 through 1974.

An air quality simulation model is developed which directly calculates long-term average sulfate concentrations under unsteady meteorological conditions. Pollutant concentrations are estimated from Lagrangian marked-particle statistics based on the time sequence of historical measured wind speed, wind direction and inversion base height motion. First order chemical reactions and ground level pollutant dry deposition are incorporated within a computational scheme which conserves pollutant mass.

Techniques are demonstrated for performing both mass balance and energy balance calculations on flows of energy resources containing sulfur throughout the economy of an air quality control region. The energy and sulfur balance approach is used to check the consistency of a spatially and temporally resolved air quality modeling emission inventory for the South Coast Air Basin.

Next the air quality model is validated against sulfur oxides emissions and sulfate air quality patterns observed in the Los Angeles Basin over each month of the years 1972 through 1974. A seasonal variation in the rate of SO2 oxidation to form sulfates is inferred. Overall average SO2 oxidation rates of about 6% per hour prevail during late spring, summer and early fall, while mean SO2 oxidation rates of between 0.5% per hour and 3% per hour prevail from October through February of our test years. From the model results, it is concluded that three to five major SO2 source classes plus background sulfates must be considered simultaneously at most monitoring sites in order to come close to explaining observed sulfate levels. The implication is that a mixed strategy aimed simultaneously at a number of specified source types will be needed if substantial sulfate air quality improvements are to be achieved within this particular airshed.

Techniques are developed for analysis of the long-run impact of pollutant concentrations on visibility. Existing statistical models for light scattering by aerosols which use particle chemical composition as a key to particle size and solubility are modified so that the relative humidity dependence of light-scattering by hygroscopic aerosols could be represented in a more physically realistic manner. Coefficients are fitted to the model based on ten years of air pollution control agency routine air monitoring data taken at downtown Los Angeles. Sulfates are found to be the most effective light scatterers in the Los Angeles atmosphere. It is estimated that the visibility impact of reducing sulfates to a half or to a quarter of their measured historic values on each past day of record would be manifested most clearly in a reduction in the number of days per year of less than three-mile visibility. The number of days of average visibility less than ten miles would be little affected.

Two retrospective examples are worked to show how the results of the air quality simulation models may be used to define a variety of sulfate air quality control strategy options. It is suggested that a package of technological emissions control measures and institutional changes (including natural gas price deregulation) may provide greater improvements in both sulfate air quality and visibility at less cost than can be obtained from a purely technological solution to the Los Angeles sulfate problem.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Environmental Science and Engineering
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Lees, Lester
Thesis Committee:
  • Unknown, Unknown
Defense Date:19 December 1977
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-06172004-111601
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:2629
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:17 Jun 2004
Last Modified:21 Dec 2019 02:21

Thesis Files

PDF (Cass_gr_volume_1_1978.pdf) - Final Version
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PDF (Cass_gr_volume_2_1978.pdf) - Final Version
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