Researchers at Jackson State University and the NOAA Air Resources Laboratory are collaborating on a joint study of atmospheric dispersion in the coastal zone using regional ensemble models or multi-model ensemble systems to develop the meteorological fields necessary to predict the movement and dispersal of pollutant plumes in the coastal environment.
The target area is the Gulf Region with focus on the Mississippi Coast. The investigation will build upon earlier studies of coastal dispersion, such as those at Cape Canaveral, FL and Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA conducted onshore in a coastal environment, and other experiments utilizing offshore releases near Long Island, NY, Oceanside, CA, and Victoria and Corpus Christi, TX. Although there are several of these historic studies available for analysis, the meteorological data collected with those studies focused upon modeling plume dispersion in a homogeneous environment. Today, our understanding of the coastal environment has expanded considerably, especially in the area of meteorological modeling and the corresponding collection of high-resolution meteorological data for model initialization. Further, the prospect of a release at sea of some hazardous material is real and requires attention, especially in the context of current concerns about homeland security.
There are many illustrations of the need for accurate and timely dispersion forecasting, mostly associated with the need to protect the public in the event of an industrial accident or some other release of harmful materials into the air. Recent events have demonstrated the vulnerability of industrial complexes on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico to severe weather, and (by extension) to attack by terrorists. There are several considerations that are increasingly warranted.
The goal in this effort is to construct a dispersion forecasting capability tailored for application in the Gulf region. Also, activity will focus on the development of ensemble methods and data assimilation techniques.
The phases of the program are designed (1) to make optimal use of existing capabilities, both measuring and modeling; (2) to augment existing capabilities as might be necessary to develop an improved dispersion forecasting system; (3) to demonstrate the accuracy and timeliness of the products developed, and (4) to migrate the products into a regional applications environment in collaboration with DHS and other relevant agencies.