Atmospheric Dispersion Models

A model of atmospheric dispersion is an algorithm that predicts the downwind concentrations of a substance that result when a given quantity of the substance is released into the air. Atmospheric dispersion models require as input (at a minimum) the quantity of substance released, the release location, and weather conditions. Many atmospheric dispersion models exist. They have been developed for pollution control and modeling the spread of radioactive material from accidents at nuclear power plants (both hypothetical and actual). Not all are suitable for all applications.

To select a model for a particular application, it is necessary to know how models differ. After discussing the ways in which models differ, we discuss the Gaussian plume model in detail. Although it is among the simpler models, it is sufficient for many applications and—because it is computationally efficient—it is ideal for quickly obtaining estimates, which may be adequate or can be further refined using other models. We compare and contrast the features of four other aerosol dispersion models.

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