R&D on Atmospheric Transport and Dispersion of Hazardous Materials

Atmospheric releases of hazardous materials, either accidental or intentional, continue to pose a viable threat
VIRSA test results when minimizing: (a) source location, mass, and time (Version 1.0) and (b) source location, mass, and time, plus wind speed and wind direction (Version 2.0).  Black dots denote the location of material sensor observations, and the blue X denotes the true source release location.  Green circles denote the first guess source release locations from which the VIRSA system initializes and converges to a minimum solution, as denoted by the red boxes.
VIRSA test results when minimizing: (a) source location, mass, and time (Version 1.0) and (b) source location, mass, and time, plus wind speed and wind direction (Version 2.0). Black dots denote the location of material sensor observations, and the blue X denotes the true source release location. Green circles denote the first guess source release locations from which the VIRSA system initializes and converges to a minimum solution, as denoted by the red boxes.

Atmospheric releases of hazardous materials, either accidental or intentional, pose a viable threat to both United States citizens, as well as troops abroad and at home.  To counter this threat, RAL is actively supporting research and the development of novel techniques and systems which can be used to more accurately simulate the atmospheric state and evolution of the released material in both time and space, for planning, real-time response, and forensic purposes.   

Hazardous Material Source Term Estimation

In addition to needing a representative description of the atmospheric state (past, present, and future), Atmospheric Transport and Dispersion (AT&D) modeling systems also require precise specifications of the material release characteristics (e.g. location, time, quantity).  For most real-time response scenarios, the specifics of the material release will be unknown, with only ancillary concentration sensor measurements available.

Algorithms and techniques to characterize the source and material are actively being developed at RAL to quickly reconstruct and estimate the source release using these limited sensor observations.  In particular, RAL is actively developing a tailored Source Term Estimation (STE) and hazard refinement system, called the Variational Iterative Refinement STE Algorithm (VIRSA).  VIRSA is a combination of models that include: the Second-order Closure Integrated PUFF model (SCIPUFF), its corresponding STE model, a hybrid Lagrangian-Eulerian Plume Model (LEPM), its formal numerical adjoint, and the software infrastructure necessary to link them.  SCIPUFF and its internal STE model are used to calculate a “first guess” source estimate based on available hazardous material sensor observations and meteorological observations.  The LEPM and corresponding adjoint are then used to iteratively refine the "first guess" source and wind estimate using variational minimization techniques.

Version 1.0 of this system was successfully integrated into the US Department of Defense (DoD) emergency response modeling systems—HPAC (Hazard Prediction and Assessment Capability) and JEM (Joint Effects Model) in FY2012.  This version of VIRSA includes the capability to refine the "first guess" source location, mass, and release time utilizing material sensor observations and meteorological observations provided in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Nuclear Biological and Chemical (NBC) messaging format.  Version 2.0 is currently under development and scheduled for release in early FY2015.  This version will include the capability to refine the wind fields (wind speed and direction), in order to provide a better estimate of the source release characteristics and resulting downwind hazard.