Water, Air & Soil Pollution

Quantifying Uncertainty in Critical Loads: (B) Acidity Mass Balance Critical Loads on a Sensitive Site

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Abstract 
This paper reports an uncertainty analysis of critical loads for acid deposition for a site in southern England, using the Steady State Mass Balance Model. The uncertainty bounds, distribution type and correlation structure for each of the 18 input parameters was considered explicitly, and overall uncertainty estimated by Monte Carlo methods. Estimates of deposition uncertainty were made from measured data and an atmospheric dispersion model, and hence the uncertainty in exceedance could also be calculated. The uncertainties of the calculated critical loads were generally much lower than those of the input parameters due to a “compensation of errors” mechanism – coefficients of variation ranged from 13% for CLmaxN to 37% for CL(A). With 1990 deposition, the probability that the critical load was exceeded was > 0.99; to reduce this probability to 0.50, a 63% reduction in deposition is required; to 0.05, an 82% reduction. With 1997 deposition, which was lower than that in 1990, exceedance probabilities declined and uncertainties in exceedance narrowed as deposition uncertainty had less effect. The parameters contributing most to the uncertainty in critical loads were weathering rates, base cation uptake rates, and choice of critical chemical value, indicating possible research priorities. However, the different critical load parameters were to some extent sensitive to different input parameters. The application of such probabilistic results to environmental regulation is discussed.

Keywords:  acid deposition - dispersion model - critical load exceedance - emission control - environmental policy - Liphook - Monte Carlo analysis - sensitivity analysis - steady state mass balance model - uncertainty analysis

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