"We found that even when we tried to model things with the best available emissions and the best available meteorology, we still had a gap, especially in the Northeast states, that couldn't be explained," he said.
In the SIP Call regions, the researchers found the simulated drop in ozone was 4.6 ppb, while the observed drop was 8 ppb, a significant difference. Faster-than-expected reductions in NOx emissions may explain some but not all of that gap. The remaining gap may result from inaccuracies in how the model represents the chemistry and transport of air pollutants, Cohan said.
"How ozone responds to changes in NOx and hydrocarbons is a nonlinear chemistry," Cohan said. "So it's certainly possible that even the best models could be slightly inaccurate in defining those relationships. It tells us that, as modelers, we need to revisit the formulations, especially the chemistry."
While it may be preferable for models to be a bit conservative rather than too aggressive in predicting ozone improvements, Cohan said, the models are intended to represent air pollution as accurately as possible. A study by Cohan's research group last year showed that regulatory modeling by states tended to slightly under-predict the ozone reductions that were actually achieved.
"The goal of everyone in the process is to reach attainment in the most cost-effective manner possible, and we need accurate models to inform those decisions," Cohan said.
|Contact: David Ruth|