Uncertainties Associated with the Estimation of Mass Balances and Gaussian Parameters from Atmospheric Tracer Studies

Philip A. Sackinger, Danny D. Reible, Fredrick H. Shair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Data resulting from two atmospheric tracer experiments in the land-sea breeze winds in Los Angeles, CA are used to compare the observed and released amounts of tracer (a mass balance). The mass balance calculation indicated that essentially all of the tracer transported to sea during the land breeze was transported back across the shore during the subsequent sea breeze. A methodology for calculating a mass balance and the associated uncertainties is presented. The experimental and calculation procedures presented allowed mass balance estimates with less uncertainty than is present in individual measurements of concentration or mixing height. Similarly, a methodology for calculating dispersion parameters for the gaussian plume model from tracer data is discussed and applied to the results of two atmospheric tracer studies conducted during the afternoon sea breeze in the Santa Barbara Channel of California. The method presented involves the integral definitions of the statistical quantities. By considering only tracer concentrations greater than 10% of the maximum concentration, and by considering sufficiently many data points, the uncertainty associated with the parameter estimation was again less than the relative uncertainties in any individual data point. These studies were primarily designed to relate the uncertainties in estimates of mass balances and in estimations of gaussian parameters to the uncertainties inherent within field data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)720-724
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of the Air Pollution Control Association
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1982


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