Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2012

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Chemical and Biochemical Engineering

First Advisor

Charles O. Stanier


This thesis presents the use of data assimilation with optimal interpolation (OI) to develop atmospheric aerosol concentration estimates for the United States at high spatial and temporal resolutions. Concentration estimates are highly desirable for a wide range of applications, including visibility, climate, and human health. OI is a viable data assimilation method that can be used to improve Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) model fine particulate matter (PM2.5) estimates. PM2.5 is the mass of solid and liquid particles with diameters less than or equal to 2.5 μm suspended in the gas phase. OI was employed by combining model estimates with satellite and surface measurements. The satellite data assimilation combined 36 x 36 km aerosol concentrations from CMAQ with aerosol optical depth (AOD) measured by MODIS and AERONET over the continental United States for 2002. Posterior model concentrations generated by the OI algorithm were compared with surface PM2.5 measurements to evaluate a number of possible data assimilation parameters, including model error, observation error, and temporal averaging assumptions. Evaluation was conducted separately for six geographic U.S. regions in 2002. Variability in model error and MODIS biases limited the effectiveness of a single data assimilation system for the entire continental domain. The best combinations of four settings and three averaging schemes led to a domain-averaged improvement in fractional error from 1.2 to 0.97 and from 0.99 to 0.89 at respective IMPROVE and STN monitoring sites. For 38% of OI results, MODIS OI degraded the forward model skill due to biases and outliers in MODIS AOD.

Surface data assimilation combined 36 × 36 km aerosol concentrations from the CMAQ model with surface PM2.5 measurements over the continental United States for 2002. The model error covariance matrix was constructed by using the observational method. The observation error covariance matrix included site representation that scaled the observation error by land use (i.e. urban or rural locations). In theory, urban locations should have less effect on surrounding areas than rural sites, which can be controlled using site representation error. The annual evaluations showed substantial improvements in model performance with increases in the correlation coefficient from 0.36 (prior) to 0.76 (posterior), and decreases in the fractional error from 0.43 (prior) to 0.15 (posterior). In addition, the normalized mean error decreased from 0.36 (prior) to 0.13 (posterior), and the RMSE decreased from 5.39 μg m-3 (prior) to 2.32 μg m-3 (posterior). OI decreased model bias for both large spatial areas and point locations, and could be extended to more advanced data assimilation methods.

The current work will be applied to a five year (2000-2004) CMAQ simulation aimed at improving aerosol model estimates. The posterior model concentrations will be used to inform exposure studies over the U.S. that relate aerosol exposure to mortality and morbidity rates. Future improvements for the OI techniques used in the current study will include combining both surface and satellite data to improve posterior model estimates. Satellite data have high spatial and temporal resolutions in comparison to surface measurements, which are scarce but more accurate than model estimates. The satellite data are subject to noise affected by location and season of retrieval. The implementation of OI to combine satellite and surface data sets has the potential to improve posterior model estimates for locations that have no direct measurements.


CMAQ, Data Assimilation, MODIS, optimal interpolation, particulate matter, PM2.5


xiv, 130 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 121-130).


Copyright 2012 Sinan Sousan