Critique of “Precipitation in Light Extinction Reconstruction” by P.A. Ryan

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The goal of the Regional Haze Rule (RHR) is to return visibility in class I areas (CIAs) to natural levels, excluding weather-related events, by 2064. Whereas visibility, the seeing of scenic vistas, is a near instantaneous and sightpath- dependent phenomenon, reasonable progress toward the RHR goal is assessed by tracking the incremental changes in 5-yr average visibility. Visibility is assessed using a haze metric estimated from 24-hr average aerosol measurements that are made at one location representative of the CIA. It is assumed that, over the 5-yr average, the aerosol loadings and relative humidity along all of the site paths are the same and can be estimated from the 24-hr measurements. It is further assumed that any time a site path may be obscured by weather (e.g., clouds and precipitation), there are other site paths within the CIA that are not. Therefore, when calculating the haze metric, sampling days are not filtered for weather conditions.

This assumption was tested by examining precipitation data from multiple monitors for four CIAs. It is shown that, in general, precipitation did not concurrently occur at all monitors for a CIA, and precipitation typically occurred 3–8 hr or less in a day. In a recent paper in this journal, Ryan asserts that the haze metric should include contributions from precipitation and conducted a quantitative assessment incorrectly based on the assumption that the Optec NGN-2 nephelometer measurements include the effects of precipitation. However, these instruments are programmed to shut down during rain events, and any data logged are in error. He further assumes that precipitation occurs as often on the haziest days as the clearest days and that precipitation light scattering (bprecip) is independent of geographic location and applied an average bprecip derived for Great Smoky Mountains to diverse locations including the Grand Canyon. Both of these assumptions are shown to be in error.

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