Modeling the effect of reduced traffic due to COVID-19 measures on air quality using a chemical transport model: impacts on the Po Valley and the Swiss Plateau regions†
The spread of COVID-19 has posed serious challenges for the global communities. To reduce the circulation of the infection, governmental bodies have imposed different lockdown measures at various levels of complexity and duration. As a result, a substantial reduction in mobility might have important, yet unknown, implications for air quality. In this study, we applied the Comprehensive Air quality Model with eXtensions (CAMx) to investigate potential changes in air quality and its chemical composition over northern Italy and Switzerland during periods when lockdown measures were enforced. Our results indicated that lockdown measures reduced nitrogen dioxide (NO2) air concentrations by up to 46% and 25% in the Po Valley and Swiss Plateau regions, respectively, whereas fine particulate matter (PM2.5) air concentrations were reduced only by up to 10% and 6%. This highlights the importance of other emission categories other than traffic for the total PM2.5 levels. The analysis of the PM2.5 components indicated that elemental carbon (EC) and particulate nitrate (NO3−) were the species most affected by the lockdown measures, whereas a mild increase in the secondary organic aerosol (SOA) concentrations occurred in the Po Valley, and specifically over the metropolitan area of Milan. Our results indicated that an increase in the oxidation capacity of the atmosphere, i.e. in the ˙OH and ˙NO3 radicals, was mainly responsible for the mild increase in SOA concentrations.
- This article is part of the themed collections: Environmental Science – coronavirus research and Celebrating Environmental Science: Atmospheres’ First Year