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Quantifying the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on air quality in downtown Toronto using open-path Fourier transform spectroscopy

During the global COVID-19 pandemic, anthropogenic emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases, especially traffic emissions in urban areas, have declined significantly. Long-term measurements of trace gas concentrations in urban areas can be used to quantify the impact of emission reductions on local air quality. Open-path Fourier transform infrared (OP-FTIR) spectroscopy is a non-intrusive technique that can be used to simultaneously measure multiple atmospheric trace gases in the boundary layer.
I will first show an overview of the setup of this on-going OP-FTIR measurement and air pollutants mole fraction time series. Then, I will focus on results of the recent analysis on the impact of COVID-19 lockdown. This study investigates the reduction of surface CO, CO2, and CH4 mole fractions during the lockdown in downtown Toronto, Canada. The mean daily average CO mole fraction anomaly for the period from March 14 to May 18, 2020 declined by 46 ± 16% compared to the period before lockdown from January 13 to March 13, 2020. The mean daily average CO mole fraction anomaly during the lockdown also declined relative to the same period in previous years: by 50 ± 20% relative to 2019 and by 44 ± 25% relative to 2018. Changes in the diurnal variations of CO, CO2 and CH4 anomaly during the lockdown are also investigated and compared to 2019 and 2018. Both CO and CO2 anomalies show early morning maxima on weekdays corresponding to rush hour. The change of the amplitude of the diurnal variation in CO anomaly during the lockdown is significant, compared to the period before lockdown. The differences in the diurnal variation in CO anomaly during the same two periods in 2019 or 2018 are not significant. Ratios of CO/CO2 anomalies show a significant decline during the lockdown compared to the period before the lockdown in 2020, which is likely due to changes of emissions from local sources in 2020. No significant change in this ratio is observed during the same two periods in 2019 or 2018. These results show that the COVID-19 lockdown in Toronto modified surface mole fractions, diurnal variations, and ratios of air pollutants monitored by OP-FTIR.

Event series  Brewer-Wilson Seminar Series