UF research suggests widely used models may under predict pollution

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- New research by a University of Florida professor suggests the complex computer models underlying regulations on pollution from cars and other sources in many of the nation's largest cities may significantly underestimate pollution levels.

Jean Andino, a UF assistant professor of environmental engineering, said the models are based in part on studies of how gases combine to form smog in clean laboratory environments. Her research, set to appear in a leading international atmospheric environmental science journal this spring, indicates some of these gases may react far more quickly when mixed with tiny particles often found in urban and natural atmospheres.

"Traditionally, researchers have done studies in laboratories in what I call 'pristine atmospheres,'" Andino said. "The problem is that the real atmosphere is not pristine -- it not only has gaseous compounds, it also has particles -- and we've found these particles can act as catalysts for the reactions and actually increase reaction rates of some gases."

Andino said her results, which will appear in the British-based journal Atmospheric Environment, indicate the particles may speed up the reactions of a selection of smog-forming gases as much as 26 percent. Tests of simple models based on the sped-up reactions have resulted in increases as high as 30 percent in the models' predicted levels of ozone, a crucial ingredients of smog, she said.

"We just looked at the chemistry, so our models were very simple compared with the real models, which consider meteorology and many other factors," she said. "Still, we think that 30 percent is a fairly significant increase, and further study is warranted."

Many of the nation's large cities and urban regions use air quality models to predict the outcome of pollution control efforts such as requiring vehicle inspections or providing special lanes for carpooling, said Roger Atkinson, a professor in the departments of environmental sci

Contact: Jean Andino
University of Florida

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