How To Improve Your Air Quality Analysis Report: Part 3- Input Data Tables

Have you ever gone to the grocery store for a specific flavor of canned soup? I find myself stepping as far back as the aisle allows so I can see all one million flavors of soup and isolate the one I am looking for. It takes a few minutes to scan through all of the seemingly identical looking cans.

When reviewing some AQA reports in the past, I would be in a similar situation, but it was input source parameters on the list rather than cans of soup. With numbers all over the place, it took a while for me to find what I was looking for.

There is a lot of information required to be in an AQA report, but how can it be presented in orderly and easily digestible way? Below are some suggestions that may be of help.

Data Segmentation

When working on engineering problem sets, we were often told if the problem is too big to handle as a whole, break it down into manageable pieces. Such is the same for you presenting your input data for your AQA report.

Ideally, provide everything in either bulletized lists or a tables. You can use text to describe the lists and tables, but do not leave it all in the discussion of your narrative. It doesn’t hurt to have items mentioned in your text and repeated in the lists and tables.

Where To Start?

When presenting the input information for your AQA, the first thing to show is a listing of the model input files. The review of the input cannot start until the reviewer can locate the raw information used in the AQA. Without a guide describing what’s what, it is nearly impossible to decipher the potentially dozens for file names.

Once all the files are listed and described, the general rule of thumb is to provide the most general and shortest lists or tables first. Usually the next set of information to present is a listing of the emission sources.

There are many pieces of information associated with the sources, so it is recommended you list the project related sources with their source type and x, y, z coordinates. If the scope of the AQA includes source outside of the project, list those similarly but separately.

Once you have listed and identified each source, list the source parameters next. Since each source type, e.g. POINT, AREA, VOLUME, etc., has a different list and number of parameters, it is suggested to have a separate table for each source type. The model input is typically in SI units but most agencies like to see English units for the source parameters. There should be enough room on the page to list the SI and English values side-by-side in the same table. If not, list as a separate table. If you do, keep the order of the sources the same between the two tables.

If you have multiple modeling or operating scenarios that involve differences in source parameter values (see our article on scenarios at, it would be very helpful to the reviewer to include a scenario column in your table. It always helps to be clear.

The next bit of information to include is the emission rates. As with the initial listing of the sources, it is suggested you list project sources and associated emission rates separately if the AQA scope expands outside the extent of the project, e.g. sitewide or cumulative for NAAQS or PSD increments. If there multiple modeling or operating scenarios, include a column for these in your tables. Similar to the source parameters, the emission rates in the model are in grams per second (g/sec), but most reviewers will want to see the rates in pounds per hour (lb/hr) and tons per year (TPY). The page width should be sufficient to include all these columns in one table without being unreadable.

If some of these tables are so long they overwhelm the structure and flow of the report, you can always place them in an appendix at the back of the report. If you do, make mention of this in the main body of the report in the place where they would be listed had the table been shorter.

A Helpful Hint: A Table of Tables

If your AQA includes dozens of sources and air contaminants to evaluate, many of the tables used to list your input data can be quite long and run on for pages. As a reviewer, very long tables are problematic. To help with this situation, try including the same data you have listed in tables in your report in a spreadsheet with each tab corresponding to the table in the report. Why do this? The spreadsheet will allow the reviewer to sort and filter the data that makes the most sense for them. When the tables in the report are generated, the sort order and groupings are set. In a spreadsheet, you have more options.


In order to present all the information necessary in an AQA report in a way that is more easily and expeditiously reviewed, lay out the information in manageable pieces that are easily digestible by the reviewer. Identify the sources, then provide their parameters, and then the air contaminant emission rates. If the presentation of the information can go on for pages and pages, make mention of the information in the body of the report, then put that information in a report appendix.

To help the reviewer, particularly if there is a lot of information to convey, compile the same information in the report tables into a spreadsheet, with the tabs corresponding to the tables in the report.

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