Limitations and uncertainties of model prediction, related to the meteorological data are mainly due to:
  • The special nature of those meteorological conditions and circumstances which occasionally lead to the worst pollution episodes;
  • The availability in required resolution of the essential meteorological information;
  • The basic inaccuracy and unrepresentativeness of the calculations of dispersion, even in the circumstances for which the dispersive action of the atmosphere is best understood.

Pasquill (1977) having in mind all the difficulties for collecting all the necessary meteorological information or the limitation of the dispersion relations only to idealised situations of air flow, constructed a very useful table with the best levels of accuracy which may be expected even in relatively simple circumstances. The values presented in this table (displayed on the next page) were based on comparison between measurements and simple dispersion formulas.

From this table an accuracy of 10% may be envisaged for ensemble averages in the most ideal combinations of circumstances, or perhaps 10-20% for certain long-term averages in less ideal circumstances (excluding the special cases of stagnant or confined airflow), but in many circumstances of practical interest the uncertainties may at best be several tens per cent statistically and factors of two or more individually.


Pasquill F. (1977), Atmospheric Diffusion. The dispersion of windborne material from industrial and other sources. 2nd edition John Wiley & sons


Uncertainty in pollution estimates (for a passive gas) derived from Pasquill (1977). The figures are fractional deviations, from the mean or actual values, of:

(a) ensemble average estimates in particular conditions (e.g. of wind speed or stability).

(b) individual values (r.m.s.) of cases forming the ensemble averages.

(c) long-term average estimates.

(d) extreme ratios 'estimate/actual'

Nature of  source and terrain


Distance of travel (km)

Property estimated


  • 1. Ground level source on flat terrain 
Overcast steady wind 

Generally unstable 

  0.1-1  <3

Peak of time-mean (few minutes) crosswind distribution  a <0.1 

b 0.1 

b 0.2 

  • 2. Moderately elevated plume (50-100m) over flat terrain 
Generally unstable 1 Distance of maximum. 

Magnitude of maximum

b 0.3 

b 0.35 

  • 3. Buoyant elevated plume over irregular terrain 
Unstable or windy 

Any except stagnation 

10    Distance of maximum hourly average.  

Maximum hourly average. 

Long term average maximum 

a 0.3 

b 0.45 

a 0.35 

b 0.5 

c 0.1 

  • 4. Plume in mixing layer 
Unstable with inversion, 

definite wind field 

100 Peak of time-mean  
(1 hr) crosswind distribution. 
d 2.
  • 5. Multiple sources in urban industrial complex 
Any except stagnation  10 Long-term spatial mean 

Individual site, value averaged over few hours 

Extreme (1% of occasions) of few-hour average at individual site 

c 0.2 

b 1. 

d 2. 

  • 6. As in 5, but source inventory not specified 
Any except stagnation  10 Daily mean averaged over 100 sites at 1 site  b 0.25 

b 0.35 




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