05 Apr 2023
 | 05 Apr 2023

Impact of 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns on particulate air pollution across Europe

Jean-Philippe Putaud, Enrico Pisoni, Alexander Mangold, Christoph Hueglin, Jean Sciare, Michael Pikridas, Chrysanthos Savvides, Jakub Ondracek, Saliou Mbengue, Alfred Wiedensohler, Kay Weinhold, Maik Merkel, Laurent Poulain, Dominik van Pinxteren, Hartmut Herrmann, Andreas Massling, Claus Nordstroem, Andrés Alastuey, Cristina Reche, Noemí Pérez, Sonia Castillo, Mar Sorribas, Jose Antonio Adame, Tuukka Petaja, Katrianne Lehtipalo, Jarkko Niemi, Véronique Riffault, Joel F. de Brito, Augustin Colette, Olivier Favez, Jean-Eudes Petit, Valérie Gros, Maria I. Gini, Stergios Vratolis, Konstantinos Eleftheriadis, Evangelia Diapouli, Hugo Denier van der Gon, Karl Espen Yttri, and Wenche Aas

Abstract. To fight against the first wave of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in 2020, lockdown measures were implemented in most European countries. These lockdowns had well-documented effects on human mobility. We assessed the impact of the lockdown implementation and relaxation on air pollution by comparing daily particulate matter (PM), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and ozone (O3) concentrations, as well as particle number size distributions (PNSD) and particle light absorption coefficients in-situ measurement data with values expected if no COVID-19 epidemic had occurred at 28 sites across Europe for the period 17 February – 31 May 2020. Expected PM, NO2 and O3 concentrations were calculated from the 2020 Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service (CAMS) Ensemble forecasts, combined with 2019 CAMS Ensemble forecasts and measurement data. On average, lockdown implementations did not lead to a decrease in PM2.5 mass concentrations at urban sites, while relaxations resulted in a +26 ± 21% rebound. The impacts of lockdown implementation and relaxation on NO2 concentrations were more consistent (−29 ± 17 %, and +31 ± 30 %, respectively). The implementation of the lockdown measures also induced statistically significant increases in O3 concentrations at half of all sites (+13 % on average). An enhanced oxidizing capacity of the atmosphere could have boosted the production of secondary aerosol at those places. Changes in the wavelength dependence of the particle light absorption coefficients and PNSD were also examined at 14 and 13 sites, respectively. Since these variables are not calculated by the CAMS model, expected values were estimated from 2017–2019 measurement data. A significant change in the relative contributions of wood and fossil fuel burning to the concentration of black carbon during the lockdown was detected at 7 sites. The contribution of particles smaller than 70 nm to the total number of particles significantly changed at most of the urban sites, with a mean decrease of −7 ± 5 % coinciding with the lockdown implementation. Our study shows that the response of PM2.5 and PM10 mass concentrations to lockdown measures was not systematic at various sites across Europe for multiple reasons, the relationship between road traffic intensity and particulate air pollution being more complex than expected.

Jean-Philippe Putaud et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-434', Anonymous Referee #1, 01 May 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-434', Anonymous Referee #2, 18 May 2023

Jean-Philippe Putaud et al.

Jean-Philippe Putaud et al.


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Short summary
Many European people are still exposed to levels of air pollution that can affect their health. COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020 were used to assess the impact of the reduction in human mobility on air pollution across Europe by comparing measurement data with values expected if no lockdown had occurred. We show that lockdown measures did not lead to consistent decreases in the concentrations of fine particulate matter suspended in the air, and investigate why.