The coronavirus-19 (COVID-19) pandemic led to government interventions to limit the spread of the disease which are unprecedented in recent history; for example, stay at home orders led to sudden decreases in atmospheric emissions from the transportation sector. In this review article, the current understanding of the influence of emission reductions on atmospheric pollutant concentrations and air quality is summarized for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), particulate matter (PM2.5), ozone (O3), ammonia, sulfur dioxide, black carbon, volatile organic compounds, and carbon monoxide (CO). In the first 7 months following the onset of the pandemic, more than 200 papers were accepted by peer-reviewed journals utilizing observations from ground-based and satellite instruments. Only about one-third of this literature incorporates a specific method for meteorological correction or normalization for comparing data from the lockdown period with prior reference observations despite the importance of doing so on the interpretation of results. We use the government stringency index (SI) as an indicator for the severity of lockdown measures and show how key air pollutants change as the SI increases. The observed decrease of NO2 with increasing SI is in general agreement with emission inventories that account for the lockdown. Other compounds such as O3, PM2.5, and CO are also broadly covered. Due to the importance of atmospheric chemistry on O3 and PM2.5 concentrations, their responses may not be linear with respect to primary pollutants. At most sites, we found O3 increased, whereas PM2.5decreased slightly, with increasing SI. Changes of other compounds are found to be understudied. We highlight future research needs for utilizing the emerging data sets as a preview of a future state of the atmosphere in a world with targeted permanent reductions of emissions. Finally, we emphasize the need to account for the effects of meteorology, emission trends, and atmospheric chemistry when determining the lockdown effects on pollutant concentrations.
Gkatzelis, Georgios I., Jessica B. Gilman, Steven S. Brown, Henk Eskes, A. Rita Gomes, Anne C. Lange, Brian C. McDonald, Jeff Peischl, Andreas Petzold, Chelsea R. Thompson, Astrid Kiendler-Scharr. The global impacts of COVID-19 lockdowns on urban air pollution: A critical review and recommendations
Journal: Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, Volume: 9, Year: 2021, First page: 00176, doi: 10.1525/elementa.2021.00176