Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 51–68 | Cite as

The influence of air quality model resolution on health impact assessment for fine particulate matter and its components

  • Ying Li
  • Daven K. Henze
  • Darby Jack
  • Patrick L. Kinney


Health impact assessments for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) often rely on simulated concentrations generated from air quality models. However, at the global level, these models often run at coarse resolutions, resulting in underestimates of peak concentrations in populated areas. This study aims to quantitatively examine the influence of model resolution on the estimates of mortality attributable to PM2.5 and its species in the USA. We use GEOS-Chem, a global 3-D model of atmospheric composition, to simulate the 2008 annual average concentrations of PM2.5 and its six species over North America. The model was run at a fine resolution of 0.5 × 0.66° and a coarse resolution of 2 × 2.5°, and mortality was calculated using output at the two resolutions. Using the fine-modeled concentrations, we estimate that 142,000 PM2.5-related deaths occurred in the USA in 2008, and the coarse resolution produces a national mortality estimate that is 8 % lower than the fine-model estimate. Our spatial analysis of mortality shows that coarse resolutions tend to substantially underestimate mortality in large urban centers. We also re-grid the fine-modeled concentrations to several coarser resolutions and repeat mortality calculation at these resolutions. We found that model resolution tends to have the greatest influence on mortality estimates associated with primary species and the least impact on dust-related mortality. Our findings provide evidence of possible biases in quantitative PM2.5 health impact assessments in applications of global atmospheric models at coarse spatial resolutions.


Health impact assessment PM2.5 Species Grid resolution Premature mortality 



This research is supported through NASA Applied Sciences Program grant NNX09AN77G. Dr. Ying Li was partially supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from the Earth Institute at Columbia University.


  1. Abt Associates I (2013) Environmental Benefits and Mapping Program (BenMAP, Version 4.0.67)Google Scholar
  2. Alexander B et al (2005) Sulfate formation in sea‐salt aerosols: constraints from oxygen isotopes. J Geophys Res Atmos (1984–2012) 110Google Scholar
  3. Anenberg SC, Horowitz LW, Tong DQ, West J (2010) An estimate of the global burden of anthropogenic ozone and fine particulate matter on premature human mortality using atmospheric modeling. Environ Health Perspect 118:1189–1195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Anenberg SC et al (2012) Global air quality and health co-benefits of mitigating near-term climate change through methane and black carbon emission controlsGoogle Scholar
  5. Arunachalam S, Wang B, Davis N, Baek BH, Levy JI (2011) Effect of chemistry-transport model scale and resolution on population exposure to PM2.5 from aircraft emissions during landing and takeoff. Atmos Environ 45:3294–3300. doi: 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2011.03.029 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beelen R et al (2008) Long-term effects of traffic-related air pollution on mortality in a Dutch cohort (NLCS-AIR study). Environ Health Perspect 116:196–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bey I et al (2001) Global modeling of tropospheric chemistry with assimilated meteorology: model description and evaluation. J Geophys Res Atmos (1984–2012) 106:23073–23095CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bond TC et al (2007) Historical emissions of black and organic carbon aerosol from energy‐related combustion, 1850–2000. Glob Biogeochem Cycles 21Google Scholar
  9. Burnett RT et al (2014) An integrated risk function for estimating the global burden of disease attributable to ambient fine particulate matter exposureGoogle Scholar
  10. Chen D, Wang Y, McElroy M, He K, Yantosca R, Sager PL (2009) Regional CO pollution and export in China simulated by the high-resolution nested-grid GEOS-Chem model. Atmos Chem Phys 9:3825–3839CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cohen AJ et al (2005) The global burden of disease due to outdoor air pollution. J Toxic Environ Health A 68:1301–1307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cooke W, Liousse C, Cachier H, Feichter J (1999) Construction of a 1× 1 fossil fuel emission data set for carbonaceous aerosol and implementation and radiative impact in the ECHAM4 model. J Geophys Res Atmos (1984–2012) 104:22137–22162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Daniels MJ, Dominici F, Samet JM, Zeger SL (2000) Estimating particulate matter-mortality dose-response curves and threshold levels: an analysis of daily time-series for the 20 largest US cities. Am J Epidemiol 152:397–406CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. De Meij A, Wagner S, Cuvelier C, Dentener F, Gobron N, Thunis P, Schaap M (2007) Model evaluation and scale issues in chemical and optical aerosol properties over the greater Milan area (Italy), for June 2001. Atmos Res 85:243–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dockery DW et al (1993) An association between air pollution and mortality in six US cities. N Engl J Med 329:1753–1759CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Duncan Fairlie T, Jacob DJ, Park RJ (2007) The impact of transpacific transport of mineral dust in the United States. Atmos Environ 41:1251–1266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dunlea E et al (2009) Evolution of Asian aerosols during transpacific transport in INTEX-B. Atmos Chem Phys 9:7257–7287CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. EPA U (2007) Guidance on the use of models and other analyses for demonstrating attainment of air quality goals for ozone, PM2. 5, and regional haze. US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Air Quality Planning and StandardsGoogle Scholar
  19. EPA. US (2012) Report to congress on black carbon. (EPA-450/R-12-001)Google Scholar
  20. Fann N, Lamson AD, Anenberg SC, Wesson K, Risley D, Hubbell BJ (2012) Estimating the national public health burden associated with exposure to ambient PM2. 5 and ozone. Risk Anal 32:81–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fann N, Fulcher CM, Baker K (2013) The recent and future health burden of air pollution apportioned across US sectors. Environ Sci Technol 47:3580–3589CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Filleul L et al (2005) Twenty five year mortality and air pollution: results from the French PAARC survey. Occup Environ Med 62:453–460CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fisher JA et al (2011) Sources, distribution, and acidity of sulfate–ammonium aerosol in the Arctic in winter–spring. Atmos Environ 45:7301–7318CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fountoukis C, Nenes A (2007) ISORROPIA II: a computationally efficient thermodynamic equilibrium model for K+–Ca 2+–Mg 2+–NH 4+–Na+–SO4 2–NO3–Cl–H2O aerosols. Atmos Chem Phys 7:4639–4659CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Generoso S, Bey I, Labonne M, Bréon FM (2008) Aerosol vertical distribution in dust outflow over the Atlantic: comparisons between GEOS‐Chem and Cloud‐aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO). J Geophys Res Atmos (1984–2012) 113Google Scholar
  26. Giglio L, Randerson J, Van der Werf G, Kasibhatla P, Collatz G, Morton D, DeFries R (2010) Assessing variability and long-term trends in burned area by merging multiple satellite fire products. Biogeosciences 7:1171–1186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Heald CL, Ridley DA, Kreidenweis SM, Drury EE (2010) Satellite observations cap the atmospheric organic aerosol budget. Geophys Res Lett 37Google Scholar
  28. Heald CL et al (2011) Exploring the vertical profile of atmospheric organic aerosol: comparing 17 aircraft field campaigns with a global model. Atmos Chem Phys 11:12673–12696CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Heald CL et al (2012) Atmospheric ammonia and particulate inorganic nitrogen over the United States. Atmos Chem Phys Discuss 12Google Scholar
  30. Henze DK, Seinfeld JH, Shindell DT (2009) Inverse modeling and mapping US air quality influences of inorganic PM 2.5 precursor emissions using the adjoint of GEOS-Chem. Atmos Chem Phys 9:5877–5903CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jaeglé L, Quinn P, Bates T, Alexander B, Lin J-T (2011) Global distribution of sea salt aerosols: new constraints from in situ and remote sensing observations. Atmos Chem Phys 11:3137–3157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Janssen N et al (2011) Black carbon as an additional indicator of the adverse health effects of airborne particles compared with PM10 and PM2. 5. Environ Health Perspect 119:1691–1699CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Jimenez J et al (2009) Evolution of organic aerosols in the atmosphere. Science 326:1525–1529CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Johnson MS, Meskhidze N, Praju Kiliyanpilakkil V (2012) A global comparison of GEOS‐Chem‐predicted and remotely‐sensed mineral dust aerosol optical depth and extinction profiles. J Adv Model Earth Syst 4Google Scholar
  35. Kheirbek I, Wheeler K, Walters S, Kass D, Matte T (2013) PM2. 5 and ozone health impacts and disparities in New York City: sensitivity to spatial and temporal resolution. Air Qual Atmos Health 6:473–486CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Krewski D et al (2009) Extended follow-up and spatial analysis of the American Cancer Society study linking particulate air pollution and mortality, vol 140. Health Effects Institute, BostonGoogle Scholar
  37. Laden F, Schwartz J, Speizer FE, Dockery DW (2006) Reduction in fine particulate air pollution and mortality: extended follow-up of the Harvard Six Cities study. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 173:667–672CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Li Y, Crawford-Brown DJ (2011) Assessing the co-benefits of greenhouse gas reduction: health benefits of particulate matter related inspection and maintenance programs in Bangkok, Thailand. Sci Total Environ 409:1774–1785CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Li Y et al (2010) Burden of disease attributed to anthropogenic air pollution in the United Arab Emirates: estimates based on observed air quality data. Sci Total Environ 408:5784–5793CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Liao K-J et al (2007) Sensitivities of ozone and fine particulate matter formation to emissions under the impact of potential future climate change. Environ Sci Technol 41:8355–8361CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lim SS et al (2013) A comparative risk assessment of burden of disease and injury attributable to 67 risk factors and risk factor clusters in 21 regions, 1990–2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. Lancet 380:2224–2260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Liu H, Jacob DJ, Bey I, Yantosca RM (2001) Constraints from 210Pb and 7Be on wet deposition and transport in a global three‐dimensional chemical tracer model driven by assimilated meteorological fields. J Geophys Res Atmos (1984–2012) 106:12109–12128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Luan Y, Jaeglé L (2013) Composite study of aerosol export events from East Asia and North America. Atmos Chem Phys 13:1221–1242. doi: 10.5194/acp-13-1221-2013 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Mao J, Fan S, Jacob D, Travis K (2013) Radical loss in the atmosphere from Cu-Fe redox coupling in aerosols. Atmos Chem Phys 13:509–519CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Mensink C, De Ridder K, Deutsch F, Lefebre F, Van de Vel K (2008) Examples of scale interactions in local, urban, and regional air quality modelling. Atmos Res 89:351–357. doi: 10.1016/j.atmosres.2008.03.020 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Olivier JG, Van Aardenne JA, Dentener FJ, Pagliari V, Ganzeveld LN, Peters JA (2005) Recent trends in global greenhouse gas emissions: regional trends 1970–2000 and spatial distribution of key sources in 2000. Environ Sci 2:81–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Ostro B (2004) Outdoor air pollution WHO Environmental burden of disease seriesGoogle Scholar
  48. Park RJ, Jacob DJ, Chin M, Martin RV (2003) Sources of carbonaceous aerosols over the United States and implications for natural visibility. J Geophys Res Atmos (1984–2012) 108Google Scholar
  49. Park RJ, Jacob DJ, Field BD, Yantosca RM, Chin M (2004) Natural and transboundary pollution influences on sulfate‐nitrate‐ammonium aerosols in the United States: implications for policy. J Geophys Res Atmos (1984–2012) 109Google Scholar
  50. Philip S, Martin RV, van Donkelaar A, JW-H Lo, Wang Y, Chen D, Zhang L, Kasibhatla PS, Wang S, Zhang Q, Lu Z, Streets DG, Bittman S, Macdonald DJ (2014) Global chemical composition of ambient fine particulate matter estimated from satellite observations and a chemical transport model environmental health perspectives. SubmittedGoogle Scholar
  51. Pope CA (2000) Invited commentary: particulate matter-mortality exposure-response relations and threshold. Am J Epidemiol 152:407–412CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Pope CA III, Thun MJ, Namboodiri MM, Dockery DW, Evans JS, Speizer FE, Heath CW Jr (1995) Particulate air pollution as a predictor of mortality in a prospective study of US adults. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 151:669–674CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Pope CA III, Burnett RT, Thun MJ, Calle EE, Krewski D, Ito K, Thurston GD (2002) Lung cancer, cardiopulmonary mortality, and long-term exposure to fine particulate air pollution. JAMA 287:1132–1141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Punger EM, West JJ (2013) The effect of grid resolution on estimates of the burden of ozone and fine particulate matter on premature mortality in the USA. Air Qual Atmos Health 6:563–573CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Schwartz J, Laden F, Zanobetti A (2002) The concentration-response relation between PM (2.5) and daily deaths. Environ Health Perspect 110:1025CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Smith KR et al (2010) Public health benefits of strategies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions: health implications of short-lived greenhouse pollutants. Lancet 374:2091–2103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Streets DG et al (2006) Revisiting China’s CO emissions after the Transport and Chemical Evolution over the Pacific (TRACE‐P) mission: synthesis of inventories, atmospheric modeling, and observations. J Geophys Res Atmos (1984–2012) 111Google Scholar
  58. Thompson TM, Saari RK, Selin NE (2014) Air quality resolution for health impact assessment: influence of regional characteristics. Atmos Chem Phys 14:969–978. doi: 10.5194/acp-14-969-2014 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. van der Werf GR et al (2010) Global fire emissions and the contribution of deforestation, savanna, forest, agricultural, and peat fires (1997–2009). Atmos Chem Phys 10:11707–11735CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. van Donkelaar A et al (2008) Analysis of aircraft and satellite measurements from the Intercontinental Chemical Transport Experiment (INTEX-B) to quantify long-range transport of East Asian sulfur to Canada. Atmos Chem Phys 8:2999–3014CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. van Donkelaar A, Martin RV, Brauer M, Kahn R, Levy R, Verduzco C, Villeneuve PJ (2010) Global estimates of ambient fine particulate matter concentrations from satellite-based aerosol optical depth: development and application. Environ Health Perspect 118:847CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Walker J, Philip S, Martin R, Seinfeld J (2012) Simulation of nitrate, sulfate, and ammonium aerosols over the United States. Atmos Chem Phys 12:11213–11227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Wang X, Mauzerall DL (2006) Evaluating impacts of air pollution in China on public health: implications for future air pollution and energy policies. Atmos Environ 40:1706–1721CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Wang YX, McElroy MB, Jacob DJ, Yantosca RM (2004) A nested grid formulation for chemical transport over Asia: applications to CO. J Geophys Res Atmos (1984–2012) 109Google Scholar
  65. Wesely M (1989) Parameterization of surface resistances to gaseous dry deposition in regional-scale numerical models. Atmos Environ (1967) 23:1293–1304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. West JJ, Fiore AM, Horowitz LW, Mauzerall DL (2006) Global health benefits of mitigating ozone pollution with methane emission controls. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 103:3988–3993CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Zhang L et al (2012) Nitrogen deposition to the United States: distribution, sources, and processes. Atmos Chem Phys Discuss 12:241–282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Zhang L, Kok JF, Henze DK, Li Q, Zhao C (2013) Improving simulations of fine dust surface concentrations over the western United States by optimizing the particle size distribution. Geophys Res Lett 40:3270–3275CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Zhu L et al (2013) Constraining US ammonia emissions using TES remote sensing observations and the GEOS‐Chem adjoint model. J Geophys Res Atmos 118:3355–3368CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ying Li
    • 1
  • Daven K. Henze
    • 2
  • Darby Jack
    • 3
  • Patrick L. Kinney
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Environmental Health, College of Public HealthEast Tennessee State UniversityJohnson CityUSA
  2. 2.Department of Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of Colorado at BoulderBoulderUSA
  3. 3.Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Mailman School of Public HealthColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations