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Reconciliation and interpretation of Big Bend National Park particulate sulfur source apportionment: results from the Big Bend Regional Aerosol and Visibility Observational Study--part I.

  • Schichtel, Bret A
  • Gebhart, Kristi A
  • Malm, William C
  • Barna, Michael G
  • Pitchford, Marc L
  • Knipping, Eladio M
  • Tombach, Ivar H
Published Article
Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association (1995)
Publication Date
Nov 01, 2005
PMID: 16350368


The Big Bend Regional Aerosol and Visibility Observational (BRAVO) study was an intensive monitoring study from July through October 1999 followed by extensive assessments to determine the causes and sources of haze in Big Bend National Park, located in Southwestern Texas. Particulate sulfate compounds are the largest contributor of haze at Big Bend, and chemical transport models (CTMs) and receptor models were used to apportion the sulfate concentrations at Big Bend to North American source regions and the Carbón power plants, located 225 km southeast of Big Bend in Mexico. Initial source attribution methods had contributions that varied by a factor of > or =2. The evaluation and comparison of methods identified opposing biases between the CTMs and receptor models, indicating that the ensemble of results bounds the true source attribution results. The reconciliation of these differences led to the development of a hybrid receptor model merging the CTM results and air quality data, which allowed a nearly daily source apportionment of the sulfate at Big Bend during the BRAVO study. The best estimates from the reconciliation process resulted in sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions from U.S. and Mexican sources contributing approximately 55% and 38%, respectively, of sulfate at Big Bend. The distribution among U.S. source regions was Texas, 16%; the Eastern United States, 30%; and the Western United States, 9%. The Carbón facilities contributed 19%, making them the largest single contributing facility. Sources in Mexico contributed to the sulfate at Big Bend on most days, whereas contributions from Texas and Eastern U.S. sources were episodic, with their largest contributions during Big Bend sulfate episodes. On the 20% of the days with the highest sulfate concentrations, U.S. and Mexican sources contributed approximately 71% and 26% of the sulfate, respectively. However, on the 20% of days with the lowest sulfate concentrations, Mexico contributed 48% compared with 40% for the United States.

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