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https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2020-997
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2020-997
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  09 Oct 2020

09 Oct 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

What can we learn about urban air quality with regard to the first outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic? A case study from Central Europe

Imre Salma1, Máté Vörösmarty1, András Zénó Gyöngyösi1, Wanda Thén2, and Tamás Weidinger3 Imre Salma et al.
  • 1Institute of Chemistry, Eötvös University, Budapest, Hungary
  • 2Hevesy György Ph. D. School of Chemistry, Eötvös University, Budapest, Hungary
  • 3Department of Meteorology, Eötvös University, Budapest, Hungary

Abstract. Motor vehicle road traffic in central Budapest was reduced by approximately 50 % of its ordinary level for several weeks as a consequence of various limitation measures introduced to mitigate the first outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The situation was utilised to assess the real potentials of urban traffic on air quality. Concentrations of NO, NO2, CO, O3, SO2 and particulate matter (PM) mass, which are ordinarily monitored in cities for air quality considerations, aerosol particle number size distributions, which are not rarely measured on-line continuously on longer run for research purposes and basic meteorological properties usually available were jointly evaluated. The largest changes occurred in the time interval of the severest limitations (partial lock-down in the Restriction phase from 28 March to 17 May 2020). Concentrations of NO, NO2, CO, total particle number (N6–1000) and particles with a diameter < 100 nm in 2020 declined by 68, 46, 27, 24 and 28 %, respectively with respect to the average reference year of 2017–2019. Their quantification was based on both relative difference and standardised anomaly. Change rates expressed as relative concentration difference due to relative reduction in traffic intensity for NO, NO2, N6–1000 and CO were 0.63, 0.57, 0.40 and 0.22 (%/%), respectively. Concentration levels of PM10 mass, which is the most critical pollutant in many European cities including Budapest, did not seem to be largely affected by vehicles. Concentrations of O3 concurrently showed an increasing tendency with lower traffic, which was explained by its non-linear reaction mechanism. Spatial gradients of NO and NO2 within the city became further enhanced by reduced traffic flow, which indicates the possible role of atmospheric processes taking place in near-city background environments.

Imre Salma et al.

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Short summary
Motor vehicle road traffic in Budapest was reduced by approximately 50 % of its ordinary level due to COVID-19 pandemic. In parallel, concentrations of most criteria air pollutants declined by 30–60 %. Change rates of NO and NO2 with relative change of traffic intensity were the largest, total particle number concentration showed considerable dependency, while particulate matter mass concentrations did not appear to be related with urban traffic. Concentrations of O3 showed an increasing tendency.
Motor vehicle road traffic in Budapest was reduced by approximately 50 % of its ordinary level...
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