Articles | Volume 10, issue 4
Model evaluation paper
21 Apr 2017
Model evaluation paper |  | 21 Apr 2017

Description and evaluation of the Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) modeling system version 5.1

K. Wyat Appel, Sergey L. Napelenok, Kristen M. Foley, Havala O. T. Pye, Christian Hogrefe, Deborah J. Luecken, Jesse O. Bash, Shawn J. Roselle, Jonathan E. Pleim, Hosein Foroutan, William T. Hutzell, George A. Pouliot, Golam Sarwar, Kathleen M. Fahey, Brett Gantt, Robert C. Gilliam, Nicholas K. Heath, Daiwen Kang, Rohit Mathur, Donna B. Schwede, Tanya L. Spero, David C. Wong, and Jeffrey O. Young

Abstract. The Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) model is a comprehensive multipollutant air quality modeling system developed and maintained by the US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Research and Development (ORD). Recently, version 5.1 of the CMAQ model (v5.1) was released to the public, incorporating a large number of science updates and extended capabilities over the previous release version of the model (v5.0.2). These updates include the following: improvements in the meteorological calculations in both CMAQ and the Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) model used to provide meteorological fields to CMAQ, updates to the gas and aerosol chemistry, revisions to the calculations of clouds and photolysis, and improvements to the dry and wet deposition in the model. Sensitivity simulations isolating several of the major updates to the modeling system show that changes to the meteorological calculations result in enhanced afternoon and early evening mixing in the model, periods when the model historically underestimates mixing. This enhanced mixing results in higher ozone (O3) mixing ratios on average due to reduced NO titration, and lower fine particulate matter (PM2. 5) concentrations due to greater dilution of primary pollutants (e.g., elemental and organic carbon). Updates to the clouds and photolysis calculations greatly improve consistency between the WRF and CMAQ models and result in generally higher O3 mixing ratios, primarily due to reduced cloudiness and attenuation of photolysis in the model. Updates to the aerosol chemistry result in higher secondary organic aerosol (SOA) concentrations in the summer, thereby reducing summertime PM2. 5 bias (PM2. 5 is typically underestimated by CMAQ in the summer), while updates to the gas chemistry result in slightly higher O3 and PM2. 5 on average in January and July. Overall, the seasonal variation in simulated PM2. 5 generally improves in CMAQv5.1 (when considering all model updates), as simulated PM2. 5 concentrations decrease in the winter (when PM2. 5 is generally overestimated by CMAQ) and increase in the summer (when PM2. 5 is generally underestimated by CMAQ). Ozone mixing ratios are higher on average with v5.1 vs. v5.0.2, resulting in higher O3 mean bias, as O3 tends to be overestimated by CMAQ throughout most of the year (especially at locations where the observed O3 is low); however, O3 correlation is largely improved with v5.1. Sensitivity simulations for several hypothetical emission reduction scenarios show that v5.1 tends to be slightly more responsive to reductions in NOx (NO + NO2), VOC and SOx (SO2 + SO4) emissions than v5.0.2, representing an improvement as previous studies have shown CMAQ to underestimate the observed reduction in O3 due to large, widespread reductions in observed emissions.

Short summary
The Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) model is a comprehensive multipollutant air quality modeling system. The CMAQ model is used extensively throughout the world to simulate air pollutants for many purposes, including regulatory and air quality forecasting applications. This work describes the scientific updates made to the latest version of the CMAQ modeling system (CMAQv5.1) and presents an evaluation of the new model against observations and results from the previous model version.