In an effort to create buffers that preferentially capture downwind populations of numerous air pollutant sources, I would like to create Gaussian-like plumes in arcgis (or in another program such as ALOHA that can easily be imported into arcgis). I have several US states broken up into 36x36 km grids, each with an assigned mean wind speed, direction, and other meteorology, and population counts. I would like to capture the downwind populations that would be exposed to emissions from each grid. "Downwind" can be defined in many ways, and one approach would be to create a Gaussian (or Gaussian-like) plume for each cell and then use a portion of them as buffer outlines.

However, I have not come across any clear method of creating buffers that can be weighted toward downwind areas, or a method of creating Gaussian plumes within ArcGIS. Any ideas?

Also, I posed a similar question here: Creating vectors based on U and V values using ArcGIS Pro?

The suggested solution is different from what I am asking currently, but the background information may be helpful.

  • doesnt ALOHA do that? you can export models to arcgis with the extension toolbar...
    – ziggy
    Jan 17, 2017 at 2:29
  • The problem that I encountered with ALOHA and other similar programs is that they are not set up to generate numerous plumes. I would need to generate thousands of plumes.
    – ellejay
    Jan 26, 2017 at 17:11

1 Answer 1


As commented by @whuber:

It all depends on what exactly you mean by a "Gaussian plume." Unless all their parameters are the same, your calculation cannot be performed though any efficient combination of standard "raster algebra" calculations. (I had to do exactly this operation almost 20 years ago and ended up writing custom code for it. See http://www.directionsmag.com/authors/bill-huber/121719 and follow links to the "convolution" articles.)

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