Assessing sensitivity of source term estimation

Kerrie J. Long, Sue Ellen Haupt, George S. Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Source term estimation algorithms compute unknown atmospheric transport and dispersion modeling variables from concentration observations made by sensors in the field. Insufficient spatial and temporal resolution in the meteorological data as well as inherent uncertainty in the wind field data make source term estimation and the prediction of subsequent transport and dispersion extremely difficult. This work addresses the question: how many sensors are necessary in order to successfully estimate the source term and meteorological variables required for atmospheric transport and dispersion modeling? The source term estimation system presented here uses a robust optimization technique - a genetic algorithm (GA) - to find the combination of source location, source height, source strength, surface wind direction, surface wind speed, and time of release that produces a concentration field that best matches the sensor observations. The approach is validated using the Gaussian puff as the dispersion model in identical twin numerical experiments. The limits of the system are tested by incorporating additive and multiplicative noise into the synthetic data. The minimum requirements for data quantity and quality are determined by an extensive grid sensitivity analysis. Finally, a metric is developed for quantifying the minimum number of sensors necessary to accurately estimate the source term and to obtain the relevant wind information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1558-1567
Number of pages10
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Issue number12
StatePublished - Apr 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Environmental Science
  • Atmospheric Science


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