Modeling for NAAQS Part 1: How to select the appropriate output for NO2

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The U.S. National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for 1-hour SO2, 1-hour NO2, and 24-hour PM2.5 use a very particular format. It is very important for all modelers (both within and outside of the U.S.) to understand how AERMOD handles this. In particular, U.S. users need to be familiar with the special tools available to help them analyze these results, and non-U.S. modelers (or anyone using AERMOD for a purpose other than the U.S. NAAQS standards) need to know how to disable AERMOD’s U.S. NAAQS-specific processing when necessary. Non-U.S. modelers and those modeling for a purpose other than comparison to the U.S. NAAQS standards should pay special attention to the “How to Turn off Special Processing for Non-U.S. or Non-Standard Modeling” section at the end of this modeling tip.  

In this modeling tip we will discuss how to select the appropriate outputs for modeling with NO2 in compliance with the U.S. National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Keep a lookout for future modeling tips where we discuss modeling with SO2 and PM2.5.

The Format of the 1-Hour NO2 NAAQS Standard for Modeling Purposes 

The 1-hour NO2 NAAQS standard uses a unique data analysis method consisting of 3 steps: 

  1. At each receptor, the model selects the highest-concentration hour from each day, and the other 23 hours from each day are discarded. 
  2. From this pool of 365 1-hour values (one from each day), the highest values are discarded such that the 8th highest NO2 value from each year is selected, leaving one value per year. 
  3. These values (usually 5, one from each year of a 5-year period) are averaged together to produce the final number that can be compared to the NO2 1-hour NAAQS design value. 

If you are familiar with the format of the general 1-hour NO2 NAAQS standard, you may notice that the steps above do not exactly match the general standard. Specifically, the 8th high value is used rather than the 98th percentile value, and a five-year rather than three-year period is typically modeled. The 8th high requirement is due to the fact that U.S. EPA has provided specific instructions on how to evaluate 1-hour NO2 for modeling purposes, and the typical five-year requirement is due to the fact that in most cases, a full NAAQS analysis requires five years of representative meteorological data. Exceptions to these rules are possible, such as in the case of one year of on-site meteorological data being used for modeling. If in doubt, consult your regulatory agency before proceeding. 

How to Model NO2 in AERMOD

How to Model NO2 in AERMOD 

If you are modeling for comparison to the 1-hour NO2 U.S. NAAQS standards, BREEZE AERMOD makes this very simple. After a few basic setup steps, the model will automatically perform all of the special processing described above, and will provide an output that can be directly compared to the NAAQS standards. To enable this special processing in AERMOD, follow the steps below: 

1. In the Control options window, under Pollutant select NO2. Click OK.

Modeling for NAAQS Part 1: How to select the appropriate output for NO2

2. In the Output options, select Receptor, day, and maximum tables for the output. At this time, users can also select additional optional results files including Plot (contour) files, Daily maximum contribution files, Daily maximum files, and/or Daily maximum by year files. 

Modeling for NAAQS Part 1: How to select the appropriate output for NO2

3. In the Plot Files tab of the Output Options, choose 1-hour 8th high. Click OK and run the model normally. 

Modeling for NAAQS Part 1: How to select the appropriate output for NO2

With these steps, the receptor table output (and the standard BREEZE Results Summary) in AERMOD can be directly compared to the U.S. NAAQS. As usual, AERMOD will calculate the high concentrations at every receptor and the one receptor with the highest concentration result should be compared to the NAAQS standard. 

How to Turn Off Special Processing for Non-U.S. or Non-Standard Modeling 

If you are not modeling for comparison to the U.S. NAAQS standards, you need to select the “Disable the special analysis for SO2, NO2, or PM2.5 NAAQS” box in the Control options window. 

Modeling for NAAQS Part 1: How to select the appropriate output for NO2

This will cause the model to revert to the standard processing it uses for all other pollutants/averaging periods. This is a critical distinction, as the same AERMOD output options could produce much less conservative results if the U.S. NAAQS processing is used. Think of a hypothetical example in which 5 years were modeled to evaluate the 8th highest 1-hour NO2 value, and the eight highest-concentration hours in that five-year period all occur on the same day. With AERMOD’s default U.S. NAAQS processing, seven of those eight high-concentration hours would be thrown out and lower concentrations from other days would replace them in the calculation. If the “Disable special analysis” option is selected to force AERMOD to use more straightforward processing, all eight high-concentration hours would count toward the final model result. 

Tools for Analyzing U.S. NO2 NAAQS Modeling Results 

As outlined above, the U.S. NAAQS for NO2 pollutants consist of a multi-year average of (typically) 5 values. This makes it more complicated to determine the how and why of high concentrations: 

  • What times of day and meteorological conditions were responsible? 
  • Which sources were responsible? 

Fortunately, specialized output file types in AERMOD have been added that help to answer these questions. The most useful of these are described below. 

Date and Time Information 

The Plot (contour) output file type is modified to help users identify the dates and times (and thus the specific situations/meteorological conditions) that contributed to their high concentrations. When viewed as a text file in the Reports tab of BREEZE AERMOD, the Plot files will show not only the NAAQS-format high concentration values (which are typically an average of five values, one from each year) – they will also show the five individual concentrations that were averaged together to get that overall high value, as well as the date and time at which those five key concentrations occurred.

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