Document Detail

A physical explanation of the lognormality of pollutant concentrations.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  2257125     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
Investigators in different environmental fields have reported that the concentrations of various measured substances have frequency distributions that are lognormal, or nearly so. That is, when the logarithms of the observed concentrations are plotted as a frequency distribution, the resulting distribution is approximately normal, or Gaussian, over much of the observed range. Examples include radionuclides in soil, pollutants in ambient air, indoor air quality, trace metals in streams, metals in biological tissue, calcium in human remains. The ubiquity of the lognormal distribution in environmental processes is surprising and has not been adequately explained, since common processes in nature (for example, computation of the mean and the analysis of error) usually give rise to distributions that are normal rather than lognormal. This paper takes the first step toward explaining why lognormal distributions can arise naturally from certain physical processes that are analogous to those found in the environment. In this paper, these processes are treated mathematically, and the results are illustrated in a laboratory beaker experiment that is simulated on the computer.
W R Ott
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Publication Detail:
Type:  Journal Article    
Journal Detail:
Title:  Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association     Volume:  40     ISSN:  1047-3289     ISO Abbreviation:  J Air Waste Manage Assoc     Publication Date:  1990 Oct 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  1991-01-31     Completed Date:  1991-01-31     Revised Date:  2000-12-18    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  9002202     Medline TA:  J Air Waste Manage Assoc     Country:  UNITED STATES    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  1378-83     Citation Subset:  IM    
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C.
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MeSH Terms
Models, Theoretical
Normal Distribution
Water Pollutants, Chemical / chemistry*
Water Pollution / statistics & numerical data*
Reg. No./Substance:
0/Water Pollutants, Chemical

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