Quantification of plume opacity by digital photography

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) developed Method 9 to describe how plume opacity can be quantified by humans. However, use of observations by humans introduces subjectivity, and is expensive due to semiannual certification requirements of the observers. The Digital Opacity Method (DOM) was developed to quantify plume opacity at lower cost, with improved objectivity, and to provide a digital record. Photographs of plumes were taken with a calibrated digital camera under specified conditions. Pixel values from those photographs were then interpreted to quantify the plume's opacity using a contrast model and a transmission model. The contrast model determines plume opacity based on pixel values that are related to the change in contrast between two backgrounds that are located behind and next to the plume. The transmission model determines the plume's opacity based on pixel values that are related to radiances from the plume and its background. DOM was field tested with a smoke generator. The individual and average opacity errors of DOM were within the USEPA Method 9 acceptable error limits for both field campaigns. Such results are encouraging and support the use of DOM as an alternative to Method 9.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)928-935
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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