Articles | Volume 3, issue 1
08 Apr 2010
 | 08 Apr 2010

Simulating emission and chemical evolution of coarse sea-salt particles in the Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) model

J. T. Kelly, P. V. Bhave, C. G. Nolte, U. Shankar, and K. M. Foley

Abstract. Chemical processing of sea-salt particles in coastal environments significantly impacts concentrations of particle components and gas-phase species and has implications for human exposure to particulate matter and nitrogen deposition to sensitive ecosystems. Emission of sea-salt particles from the coastal surf zone is known to be elevated compared to that from the open ocean. Despite the importance of sea-salt emissions and chemical processing, the US EPA's Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) model has traditionally treated coarse sea-salt particles as chemically inert and has not accounted for enhanced surf-zone emissions. In this article, updates to CMAQ are described that enhance sea-salt emissions from the coastal surf zone and allow dynamic transfer of HNO3, H2SO4, HCl, and NH3 between coarse particles and the gas phase. Predictions of updated CMAQ models and the previous release version, CMAQv4.6, are evaluated using observations from three coastal sites during the Bay Regional Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment (BRACE) in Tampa, FL in May 2002. Model updates improve predictions of NO3, SO42−, NH4+, Na+, and Cl concentrations at these sites with only a 8% increase in run time. In particular, the chemically interactive coarse particle mode dramatically improves predictions of nitrate concentration and size distributions as well as the fraction of total nitrate in the particle phase. Also, the surf-zone emission parameterization improves predictions of total sodium and chloride concentration. Results of a separate study indicate that the model updates reduce the mean absolute error of nitrate predictions at coastal CASTNET and SEARCH sites in the eastern US. Although the new model features improve performance relative to CMAQv4.6, some persistent differences exist between observations and predictions. Modeled sodium concentration is biased low and causes under-prediction of coarse particle nitrate. Also, CMAQ over-predicts geometric mean diameter and standard deviation of particle modes at the BRACE sites. These over-predictions may cause too rapid particle dry deposition and partially explain the low bias in sodium predictions. Despite these shortcomings, the updates to CMAQ enable more realistic simulations of chemical processes in environments where marine air mixes with urban pollution. The model updates described in this article are included in the public release of CMAQv4.7 (