Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Environmental Science and Engineering


Rosa M. Fitzgerald


The assessment and characterization of atmospheric aerosols and their optical properties are of great significance for several applications such as air pollution studies, atmospheric visibility, remote sensing of the atmosphere, and impacts on climate change. Decades ago, the interest in atmospheric aerosols was primarily for visibility impairment problems; however, recently interest has intensified with efforts to quantify the optical properties of aerosols, especially because of the uncertainties surrounding the role of aerosols in climate change. The main objective of the optical characterization of aerosols is to understand their properties. These properties are determined by the aerosols' chemical composition, size, shape and concentration.

The general purpose of this research was to contribute to a better characterization of the aerosols present in the Paso del Norte Basin. This study permits an alternative approach in the understanding of air pollution for this zone by analyzing the predominant components and their contributions to the local environment.

This dissertation work had three primary objectives, in which all three are intertwined by the general purpose of the aerosol characterization in the Paso del Norte region. The first objective was to retrieve the columnar aerosol size distribution for two different cases (clean and polluted scenarios) at each season (spring, summer, fall and winter) of the year 2009. In this project, instruments placed in buildings within the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) as well as a monitoring site (CAMS 12) from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) provided the measurements that delimited the aerosol size distribution calculated by our model, the Environmental Physics Inverse Reconstruction (EPIRM) model. The purpose of this objective was to provide an alternate method of quantifying and size-allocating aerosols in situ, by using the optical properties of the aerosols and inversely reconstruct and retrieve the size distribution of them. This method permits the assessment of aerosols in the ambient in-situ, without physically extracting them from their current state, as the filter technique does.

The second objective was an analysis and comparison of the aerosol optical thickness (AOT) data between ground-based instruments and satellite data. In this project, the ground-based instruments are the Multi Filter Rotating Shadowband Radiometers (MFRSR) installed at UTEP and the nearest sun photometer facility, a NASA's Aerosol Robotic Network (AERONET), located at White Sands, New Mexico. The satellite data is provided by the NASA's Multi-angle Imaging Spectro-radiometer (MISR) instrument located in the Terra satellite.

Finally, the third objective was to estimate ground particulate matter concentration of particles no greater than 2.5 µm in diameter (PM2.5) by using the MISR's satellite data. This objective was achieved by implementing an empirical mathematical model that includes measured data. In addition, this model addressed the geographic characteristics of the region as well as several factors such as season, relative humidity (RH) and the height of the planetary boundary layer (PBL).




Received from ProQuest

File Size

127 pages

File Format


Rights Holder

Angel E. Esparza