Publication Date


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Science in Civil Engineering


Civil Engineering

Major Advisor

Sondra M. Miller, Ph.D., P.E.


The aviation industry has experienced sustained growth since its inception result- ing in an increase in air pollutant emissions. Exposure to particulate matter less than 2.5 µm in diameter (PM2.5) has been linked to respiratory health problems because it penetrates deepest into human lungs.

This thesis focused on the concentrations of three secondary aerosol species (i.e., sulfate, nitrate + ammonium and organic carbon) as they relate to the formation of total PM2.5. There were three goals of this research: evaluate differences in total PM2.5 concentration as (1) ground-level aviation emissions (i.e., up to 3,000 ft.) varied, (2) meteorological conditions varied, and (3) the resulting effects on human health.

The Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) model was used to simulate the effects of increasing or decreasing ground-level aviation emissions from current values. Randomly generated multiplicative factors were applied to current ground- level aviation emissions, resulting in 25 CMAQ simulations representing increases or decreases in aviation activities. Ground-level aviation emissions were varied and used as inputs to CMAQ.

A sensitivity analysis was performed for these 25 simulations to assess the effects of changes in aviation-associated ground-level emissions and meteorology on total PM2.5 concentration. Outputs from these simulations were compared to a base case simulation, which represented current ground-level aviation emissions.

Meteorological variables played a larger role in total PM2.5 concentration than variations in ground-level aviation emissions. For example, while holding the other two secondary aerosol emissions at current levels, a 342% increase in sulfate emissions caused a 2.06% increase in sulfate secondary aerosol concentration and a 1.2% increase in total PM2.5 concentration over current ground-level aviation activities. In contrast, changes in relative humidity from winter to summer lead to an 18.9% decrease in total PM2.5 concentration. The results of these analyses are discussed, while the potential human health effects due to changes in aviation emissions are examined using BenMap.