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Introduction to Air Quality Modeling

Computer models are used to simulate the meteorological conditions and chemical reactions that contribute to the formation and movement of air pollutants, in addition to predicting how air quality in a region will be affected by economic changes, population growth, and emission reductions.

The TCEQ uses state of the art computer models to simulate the meteorological conditions and chemical reactions that contribute to the formation of air pollutants such as ground-level ozone. The computer models help the TCEQ estimate future air quality in Texas communities. Modeling results assist the agency in proposing appropriate air pollution controls and support commission decisions.

Computer models are used to predict changes in air quality in a region. Like all models of complex physical systems, the models used by the TCEQ have some uncertainties, but these models are recognized by EPA as the best (or recommended) tools available for developing plans to achieve clean air goals.

There are three critical parts in an air quality modeling process:

The federal Clean Air Act (CAA) requires each state to maintain a State Implementation Plan (SIP) that "provides for implementation, maintenance, and enforcement" of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) , for specified air contaminants, including ozone, particulate matter, and regional haze. Because some areas in Texas do not comply with the NAAQS for ozone, the state has revised the Texas SIP to include plans for attaining the NAAQS in each of these areas. These SIP revisions often include "Attainment Demonstrations." The federal CAA requires most areas (moderate status and above) that fail to comply with the NAAQS to use photochemical grid models to demonstrate that the standards will be attained by dates specified in the Act. The EPA may also require states, including those complying with all NAAQS, to include plans for addressing regional air quality issues (such as visibility degradation caused by regional haze, and pollutant transport) in their SIPs.

Air quality modeling for developing a SIP for ozone involves:

In the past several years, the TCEQ has actively conducted air quality modeling for the following areas:

The TCEQ has also developed modeling files for the following areas:

  • Northeast Texas (Tyler-Longview-Marshall area; Gregg, Harrison, Smith, Rusk, and Upshur counties)
  • San Antonio area (Bexar, Comal, Guadalupe, and Wilson counties)
  • Austin-Round Rock area (Caldwell, Bastrop, Hays, Travis, and Williamson counties)
  • Beaumont-Port Arthur area (Jefferson, Hardin, and Orange counties)
  • Waco area (McLennan County)
  • Victoria area (Victoria County)
  • Corpus Christi area (Nueces and San Patricio counties)
  • El Paso area (El Paso County)

The Air Modeling Data web page provides information on TCEQ air quality modeling projects and links to corresponding data files.