Advanced methods for uncertainty assessment and global sensitivity analysis of a Eulerian atmospheric chemistry transport model

Ksenia Aleksankina, Massimo Vieno, Stefan Reis, Mathew R. Heal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Atmospheric chemistry transport models (ACTMs) are extensively used to provide scientific support for the development of policies to mitigate against the detrimental effects of air pollution on human health and ecosystems. Therefore, it is essential to quantitatively assess the level of model uncertainty and to identify the model input parameters that contribute the most to the uncertainty. For complex process-based models, such as ACTMs, uncertainty and global sensitivity analyses are still challenging and are often limited by computational constraints due to the requirement of a large number of model runs. In this work, we demonstrate an emulator-based approach to uncertainty quantification and variance-based sensitivity analysis for the EMEP4UK model (regional application of the European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme Meteorological Synthesizing Centre-West). A separate Gaussian process emulator was used to estimate model predictions at unsampled points in the space of the uncertain model inputs for every modelled grid cell. The training points for the emulator were chosen using an optimised Latin hypercube sampling design. The uncertainties in surface concentrations of O3, NO2, and PM2.5 were propagated from the uncertainties in the anthropogenic emissions of NOx, SO2, NH3, VOC, and primary PM2.5 reported by the UK National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory. The results of the EMEP4UK uncertainty analysis for the annually averaged model predictions indicate that modelled surface concentrations of O3, NO2, and PM2.5 have the highest level of uncertainty in the grid cells comprising urban areas (up to ± 7%, ± 9%, and ± 9% respectively). The uncertainty in the surface concentrations of O3 and NO2 were dominated by uncertainties in NOx emissions combined from non-dominant sectors (i.e. all sectors excluding energy production and road transport) and shipping emissions. Additionally, uncertainty in O3 was driven by uncertainty VOC emissions combined from sectors excluding solvent use. Uncertainties in the modelled PM2.5 concentrations were mainly driven by uncertainties in primary PM2.5 emissions and NH3 emissions from the agricultural sector. Uncertainty and sensitivity analyses were also performed for five selected grid sells for monthly averaged model predictions to illustrate the seasonal change in the magnitude of uncertainty and change in the contribution of different model inputs to the overall uncertainty. Our study demonstrates the viability of a Gaussian process emulator-based approach for uncertainty and global sensitivity analyses, which can be applied to other ACTMs. Conducting these analyses helps to increase the confidence in model predictions. Additionally, the emulators created for these analyses can be used to predict the ACTM response for any other combination of perturbed input emissions within the ranges set for the original Latin hypercube sampling design without the need to re-run the ACTM, thus allowing fast exploratory assessments at significantly reduced computational costs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2881-2898
Number of pages18
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Early online date7 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2019

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • atmospheric chemistry transport modelling
  • Air quality modelling
  • Global sensitivity analysis
  • Latin hypercube sampling
  • Emulators


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