Evaluation of digital optical method to determine plume opacity during nighttime

Ke Du, Mark J. Rood, Byung J. Kim, Michael R. Kemme, Bill Franek, Kevin Mattison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) set opacity standards for visual emissions from industrial sources to protect ambient air quality. USEPA developed Method 9, which is a reference method to describe how plume opacity can be quantified by human observers during daytime conditions. However, it would be beneficial to determine plume opacity with digital still cameras (DSCs) to provide graphical records of the plume and its environment during visual emission evaluation and to be able to determine plume opacity with DSCs during nighttime conditions. Digital optical method (DOM) was developed to quantify plume opacity from photographs that were provided by a DSC during daytime. Past daytime field campaigns have demonstrated that DOM provided opacity readings that met Method 9 certification requirements. In this paper, the principles and methodology of DOM to quantify plume opacity during nighttime are described. Also, results are described from a nighttime field campaign that occurred at Springfield, IL Opacity readings provided by DOM were compared with the opacity values obtained with the reference in-stack transmissometer of the smoke generator. The average opacity errors were 2.3-3.5% for contrast model of DOM for all levels of plume opacity. The average opacity errors were 2.0-7.6% for the transmission model of DOM for plumes with opacity 0-50%. These results are encouraging and indicate that DOM has the potential to quantify plume opacity during nighttime.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)783-789
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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