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Simulation of Neighborhood-Scale Air Quality with two-way coupled WRF-CMAQ over Southern Lake Michigan-Chicago Region
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  • Anastasia Montgomery,
  • Jordan Schnell,
  • Zachariah Adelman,
  • Mark Janssen,
  • Daniel E Horton
Anastasia Montgomery
Northwestern University

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Jordan Schnell
Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder NOAA/Global Systems Laboratory
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Zachariah Adelman
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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Mark Janssen
Lake Michigan Air Directors Consortium
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Daniel E Horton
Northwestern University
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The southern Lake Michigan region of the United States, home to Chicago, Milwaukee, and other densely populated Midwestern cities, frequently experiences high pollutant episodes with unevenly distributed exposure and health burdens. Using the two-way coupled Weather Research Forecast and Community Multiscale Air Quality Model (WRF-CMAQ), we investigate criteria pollutants over a southern Lake Michigan domain using 1.3 and 4 km resolution hindcast simulations. We assess WRF-CMAQ’s performance using data from the National Climate Data Center and EPA Air Quality System. Our 1.3 km simulation slightly improves on the 4 km simulation’s meteorological and chemical performance while also resolving key details in areas of high exposure and impact, i.e., urban environments. At 1.3 km, we find that most air quality-relevant meteorological components of WRF-CMAQ perform at or above community benchmarks. WRF-CMAQ’s chemical performance also largely meets community standards, with substantial nuance depending on the performance metric and component assessed. For example, hourly simulated NO2 and O3 are highly correlated with observations (r > 0.6) while PM2.5 is less so (r = 0.4). Similarly, hourly simulated NO2 and PM2.5 have low biases (<10%), whereas O3 biases are larger (<30%). Simulated spatial pollutant patterns show distinct urban-rural footprints, with urban NO2 and PM2.5 20-60% higher than rural, and urban O3 6% lower. We use our 1.3 km simulations to resolve high-pollution areas within individual urban neighborhoods and characterize changes in O3 regimes across tight spatial gradients. Our findings demonstrate both the benefits and limitations of high-resolution simulations, particularly over urban settings.
27 Mar 2023Published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres volume 128 issue 6. 10.1029/2022JD037942