Improving pollutant source characterization by better estimating wind direction with a genetic algorithm

Christopher T. Allen, George S. Young, Sue Ellen Haupt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


In homeland security applications, it is often necessary to characterize the source location and strength of a potentially harmful contaminant. Correct source characterization requires accurate meteorological data such as wind direction. Unfortunately, available meteorological data is often inaccurate or unrepresentative, having insufficient spatial and temporal resolution for precise modeling of pollutant dispersion. To address this issue, a method is presented that simultaneously determines the surface wind direction and the pollutant source characteristics. This method compares monitored receptor data to pollutant dispersion model output and uses a genetic algorithm (GA) to find the combination of source location, source strength, and surface wind direction that best matches the dispersion model output to the receptor data. A GA optimizes variables using principles from genetics and evolution. The approach is validated with an identical twin experiment using synthetic receptor data and a Gaussian plume equation as the dispersion model. Given sufficient receptor data, the GA is able to reproduce the wind direction, source location, and source strength. Additional runs incorporating white noise into the receptor data to simulate real-world variability demonstrate that the GA is still capable of computing the correct solution, as long as the magnitude of the noise does not exceed that of the receptor data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2283-2289
Number of pages7
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Issue number11
StatePublished - Apr 1 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Atmospheric Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Improving pollutant source characterization by better estimating wind direction with a genetic algorithm'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this