Modeling Spatial Patterns of Traffic-Related Air Pollutants in Complex Urban Terrain

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Modeling Spatial Patterns of Traffic-Related Air Pollutants in Complex Urban Terrain

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Title: Modeling Spatial Patterns of Traffic-Related Air Pollutants in Complex Urban Terrain
Author: Zwack, Leonard M.; Paciorek, Christopher Joseph; Spengler, John D.; Levy, Jonathan Ian

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Citation: Zwack, Leonard M., Christopher Joseph Paciorek, John D. Spengler, and Jonathan Ian Levy. 2011. Modeling spatial patterns of traffic-related air pollutants in complex urban terrain. Environmental Health Perspectives 119(6): 852-859.
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Abstract: Background: The relationship between traffic emissions and mobile-source air pollutant concentrations is highly variable over space and time and therefore difficult to model accurately, especially in urban settings with complex terrain. Regression-based approaches using continuous real-time mobile measurements may be able to characterize spatiotemporal variability in traffic-related pollutant concentrations but require methods to incorporate temporally varying meteorology and source strength in a physically interpretable fashion. Objective: We developed a statistical model to assess the joint impact of both meteorology and traffic on measured concentrations of mobile-source air pollutants over space and time. Methods: In this study, traffic-related air pollutants were continuously measured in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York (USA), which is affected by traffic on a large bridge and major highway. One-minute average concentrations of ultrafine particulate matter (UFP), fine particulate matter [\(\leq 2.5 \mu m\) in aerodynamic diameter \((PM_{2.5})\)], and particle-bound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons were measured using a mobile-monitoring protocol. Regression modeling approaches to quantify the influence of meteorology, traffic volume, and proximity to major roadways on pollutant concentrations were used. These models incorporated techniques to capture spatial variability, long- and short-term temporal trends, and multiple sources. Results: We observed spatial heterogeneity of both UFP and \(PM_{2.5}\) concentrations. A variety of statistical methods consistently found a 15–20% decrease in UFP concentrations within the first 100 m from each of the two major roadways. For \(PM_{2.5}\), temporal variability dominated spatial variability, but we observed a consistent linear decrease in concentrations from the roadways. Conclusions: The combination of mobile monitoring and regression analysis was able to quantify local source contributions relative to background while accounting for physically interpretable parameters. Our results provide insight into urban exposure gradients.
Published Version: doi:10.1289/ehp.1002519
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