• Assessment of particulate accumulation climatology under inversions in Glacier Bay for the 2008 tourist season using WRF/Chem data

      Pirhalla, Michael A.; Mölders, Nicole; Bhatt, Uma; Polyakov, Igor; Gende, Scott (2014-05)
      Each summer, roughly one million tourists come to Southeast Alaska aboard cruise ships to see the pristine landscape and wildlife. Tourism is an integral component in the economy for most of the towns and villages on the Alaska Panhandle. With ship emissions only modestly regulated, there have been some concerns regarding the potential environmental impacts that cruise ships have on air quality, wildlife, and visitor experience. Cruise ships travel to remote regions, and are frequently the only anthropogenic emissions source in federally protected parks, such as Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. In the absence of winds and synoptic scale storm systems common in the Gulf of Alaska, temperature inversions frequently develop inside Glacier Bay due to radiative cooling influenced by the complex topography inside the park. Inversions act as a lid, and may trap pollutants from cruise-ship emissions depending on the meteorological conditions present. Since meteorological observations are sparse and frequently skewed to easily accessible locations, data from the Weather Research and Forecasting Model, coupled with a chemistry package (WRF/Chem), were used to examine the physical and chemical processes that are impossible to determine through direct observations. Model simulation data for 124 days during the 2008 tourist season (May 15 to September 15), including a cruise-ship emission inventory for all 225 cruise ship entries in Glacier Bay, was analyzed. Evaluation of WRF/Chem through meteorological observations reveals that the model accurately captures the synoptic conditions for most of the summer, despite problems with complex topography. WRF/Chem simulated quasi-multi-day inversion events, with strengths as high as 6.7 K (100 m)⁻¹. Inversions were present in all grid-cell locations in Glacier Bay, with inversions occurring on average of 42% of the days during the tourist season. WRF/Chem was able to model PM₁₀ (particulate matter with diameter less than 10 μm) concentrations from cruise ships, but the absence of aerosol monitoring sites does not allow us to confirm the results. However, no simulated particulates ever exceed the daily average National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) of 150 μg m⁻³. The high variability of particle concentrations in Glacier Bay suggests the need for an air quality observational network to further assess local air quality issues.