Impact of meteorological condition changes on air quality and particulate chemical composition during the COVID-19 lockdown

Yinchang Feng , Jing Ding , Qili Dai , Yafei Li , Suqin Han , Yufen Zhang


Received September 27, 2020,Revised , Accepted February 19, 2021, Available online February 25, 2021

Volume 33,2021,Pages 45-56

Stringent quarantine measures during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) lockdown period (January 23, 2020 to March 15, 2020) have resulted in a distinct decrease in anthropogenic source emissions in North China Plain compared to the paralleled period of 2019. Particularly, 22.7% decrease in NO2 and 3.0% increase of O3 was observed in Tianjin, nonlinear relationship between O3 generation and NO2 implied that synergetic control of NOx and VOCs is needed. Deteriorating meteorological condition during the COVID-19 lockdown obscured the actual PM2.5 reduction. Fireworks transport in 2020 Spring Festival (SF) triggered regional haze pollution. PM2.5 during the COVID-19 lockdown only reduced by 5.6% in Tianjin. Here we used the dispersion coefficient to normalize the measured PM2.5 (DN-PM2.5), aiming to eliminate the adverse meteorological impact and roughly estimate the actual PM2.5 reduction, which reduced by 17.7% during the COVID-19 lockdown. In terms of PM2.5 chemical composition, significant NO3 increase was observed during the COVID-19 lockdown. However, as a tracer of atmospheric oxidation capacity, odd oxygen (Ox = NO2 + O3) was observed to reduce during the COVID-19 lockdown, whereas relative humidity (RH), specific humidity and aerosol liquid water content (ALWC) were observed with noticeable enhancement. Nitrogen oxidation rate (NOR) was observed to increase at higher specific humidity and ALWC, especially in the haze episode occurred during 2020SF, high air humidity and obvious nitrate generation was observed. Anomalously enhanced air humidity may response for the nitrate increase during the COVID-19 lockdown period.

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