Year-round changes in tropospheric nitrogen dioxide caused by COVID-19 in China using satellite observation

Huan Liu , Zhenyu Luo , Hailian Xu , Zhining Zhang , Songxin Zheng


Received July 21, 2021,Revised , Accepted January 09, 2022, Available online January 17, 2022

Volume 35,2023,Pages 162-168

The lockdown policy deals a severe blow to the economy and greatly reduces the nitrogen oxides (NOx) emission in China when the coronavirus 2019 spreads widely in early 2020. Here we use satellite observations from Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument to study the year-round variation of the nitrogen dioxide (NO2) tropospheric vertical column density (TVCD) in 2020. The NO2 TVCD reveals a sharp drop, followed by small fluctuations and then a strong rebound when compared to 2019. By the end of 2020, the annual average NO2 TVCD declines by only 3.4% in China mainland, much less than the reduction of 24.1% in the lockdown period. On the basis of quantitative analysis, we find the rebound of NO2 TVCD is mainly caused by the rapid recovery of economy especially in the fourth quarter, when contribution of industry and power plant on NO2 TVCD continues to rise. This revenge bounce of NO2 indicates the emission reduction of NOx in lockdown period is basically offset by the recovery of economy, revealing the fact that China's economic development and NOx emissions are still not decoupled. More efforts are still required to stimulate low-pollution development.

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