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Covid-19 Impact on Air Quality in Megacities

Published time: 01 July 2020

Authors: Benjamin Schäfer, Rulan Verma, Aswin Giri, Hankun He, S. M. Shiva Nagendra, Mukesh Khare, Christian Beck


Air pollution is among the highest contributors to mortality worldwide, especially in urban areas. During spring 2020, many countries enacted social distancing measures in order to slow down the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. A particularly drastic measure, the “lockdown”, urged people to stay at home and thereby prevent new Covid-19 infections. In turn, it also reduced traffic and industrial activities. But how much did these lockdown measures improve air quality in large cities, and are there differences in how air quality was affected? Here, we analyse data from two megacities: London as an example for Europe and Delhi as an example for Asia. We consider data during and before the lockdown and compare these to a similar time period from 2019. Overall, we find a reduction in almost all air pollutants with intriguing differences between the two cities. In London, despite smaller average concentrations, we still observe high-pollutant states and an increased tendency towards extreme events (a higher kurtosis during lockdown). For Delhi, we observe a much stronger decrease of pollution concentrations, including high pollution states. These results could help to design rules to improve long-term air quality in megacities.

Covid-19 impact on air quality in megacities



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