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Modeling Spatial Variations of Black Carbon Particles in an Urban Highway-Building Environment

Tong, Zheming, Wang, Yan Jason, Patel, Molini, Kinney, Patrick, Chrillrud, Steven, Zhang, K. Max
Environmental Science & Technology 2012 v.46 no.1 pp. 312-319
aerosols, air pollution, carbon, chemistry, geometry, humans, open space, pollutants, simulation models, urban population, wind direction, wind speed, New York
Highway-building environments are prevalent in metropolitan areas. This paper presents our findings in investigating pollutant transport in a highway-building environment by combing field measurement and numerical simulations. We employ and improve the Comprehensive Turbulent Aerosol Dynamics and Gas Chemistry (CTAG) model to simulate the spatial variations of black carbon (BC) concentrations near highway I-87 and an urban school in the South Bronx, New York. The results of CTAG simulations are evaluated against and agree adequately with the measurements of wind speed, wind directions, and BC concentrations. Our analysis suggests that the BC concentration at the measurement point of the urban school could decrease by 43–54% if roadside buildings were absent. Furthermore, we characterize two generalized conditions in a highway-building environment, i.e., highway-building canyon and highway viaduct-building. The former refers to the canyon between solid highway embankment and roadside buildings, where the spatial profiles of BC depend on the equivalent canyon aspect ratio and flow recirculation. The latter refers to the area between a highway viaduct (i.e., elevated highway with open space underneath) and roadside buildings, where strong flow recirculation is absent and the spatial profiles of BC are determined by the relative heights of the highway and buildings. The two configurations may occur at different locations or in the same location with different wind directions when highway geometry is complex. Our study demonstrates the importance of incorporating highway-building interaction into the assessment of human exposure to near-road air pollution. It also calls for active roles of building and highway designs in mitigating near-road exposure of urban population.