Evaluation of Model Back Trajectories of the Kuwait Oil Fires Smoke Plume Using Digital Satellite Data


Jeffery T. McQueen and Roland R. Draxler


Atmospheric Environment, Vol. 22, No. 13, pp. 2159-2174, 1994


Abstract - This study evaluates the accuracy of the National Weather Service Medium Range Forecast (MRF) global model outputs in simulating the transport and dispersion of the Kuwait oil fire smoke plume. A technique was developed to analyze NOAA polar orbiting satellite imagery to obtain horizontal smoke plume positions. The plume heights were obtained by combining the satellite analysis with back trajectory results. Backward trajectories were computed using both coarse and fine resolution MRF wind fields. The average of the absolute value of relative trajectory error (|RTE|) for the late summer period (24 July - 15 September 1991) was about 10% of the travel distance when using the fine grid trajectories with the optimum plume centroid height and 14% when using the coarse grid model output. The absolute RTE for the optimum plume height runs was half of the RTE for the constant starting height run (|RTE|=0.21). This difference indicates the importance of proper specification of plume centroid height when using high-resolution meteorological data for transport studies. Use of the standard coarse grid MRF wind fields to drive the transport model was shown to lead to large errors near the source due to the poor horizontal and vertical resolution.



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