Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2022-87
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2022-87
 
16 Feb 2022
16 Feb 2022
Status: a revised version of this preprint was accepted for the journal ACP and is expected to appear here in due course.

Secondary PM decreases significantly less than NO2 emission reductions during COVID lockdown in Germany

Vigneshkumar Balamurugan1, Jia Chen1, Zhen Qu2, Xiao Bi1, and Frank N. Keutsch2,3 Vigneshkumar Balamurugan et al.
  • 1Environmental Sensing and Modeling, Technical University of Munich (TUM), Munich, Germany
  • 2School of Engineering and Applied Science, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
  • 3Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA

Abstract. This study estimates the influence of anthropogenic emission reductions on the concentration of particulate matter with a diameter smaller than 2.5 μm (PM2.5) during the 2020 lockdown period in German metropolitan areas. After accounting for meteorological effects, PM2.5 concentrations during the spring 2020 lockdown period were 5 % lower compared to the same time period in 2019. However, during the 2020 pre-lockdown period (winter), meteorology accounted for PM2.5 concentrations were 19 % lower than in 2019. Meanwhile, meteorology accounted for NO2 concentrations dropped by 23 % during the 2020 lockdown period compared to an only 9 % drop for the 2020 pre-lockdown period, both compared to 2019. Meteorology accounted for SO2 and CO concentrations show no significant changes during the 2020 lockdown period compared to 2019. GEOS-Chem (GC) simulation with a COVID-19 emission reduction scenario based on the observations (23 % reduction in NOX emission with unchanged VOC and SO2) are consistent with the small reductions of PM2.5 during the lockdown and are used to identify the underlying drivers for this. Due to being in a NOX saturated ozone production regime, GC OH radical and O3 concentrations increased (15 and 9 %, respectively) during the lockdown compared to a Business As Usual (no lockdown) scenario. The increased O3 results in increased NO3 radical concentrations, primarily during the night, despite the large reductions in NO2. Thus, the oxidative capacity of the atmosphere is increased in all three important oxidants, OH, O3, and NO3. PM nitrate formation from gas-phase nitric acid (HNO3) is decreased during the lockdown as the increased OH concentration cannot compensate for the strong reductions in NO2 resulting in decreased day-time HNO3 formation from the OH + NO2 reaction. However, night-time formation of PM nitrate from N2O5 hydrolysis is relatively unchanged. This results from the fact that increased night-time O3 results in significantly increased NO3 which roughly balances the effect of the strong NO2 reductions on N2O5 formation. Ultimately, the only small observed decrease in lockdown PM2.5 concentrations can be explained by the large contribution of night-time PM nitrate formation, generally enhanced sulfate formation and slightly decreased ammonium. This study also suggests that high PM2.5 episodes in early spring are linked to high atmospheric ammonia concentrations combined with favorable meteorological conditions of low temperature and low boundary layer height. North-West Germany is a hot-spot of NH3 emissions, primarily emitted from livestock farming and intensive agricultural activities (fertilizer application), with high NH3 concentrations in the early spring and summer months. Based on our findings, we suggest that appropriate NOX and VOC emission controls are required to limit ozone, and that should also help reduce PM2.5. Regulation of NH3 emissions, primarily from agricultural sectors, could result in significant reductions in PM2.5 pollution.

Vigneshkumar Balamurugan et al.

Status: closed

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on acp-2022-87', Anonymous Referee #1, 02 Mar 2022
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Vigneshkumar Balamurugan, 15 Apr 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on acp-2022-87', Anonymous Referee #2, 14 Mar 2022
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Vigneshkumar Balamurugan, 15 Apr 2022
  • RC3: 'Comment on acp-2022-87', Anonymous Referee #3, 17 Mar 2022
    • AC3: 'Reply on RC3', Vigneshkumar Balamurugan, 15 Apr 2022

Status: closed

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on acp-2022-87', Anonymous Referee #1, 02 Mar 2022
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Vigneshkumar Balamurugan, 15 Apr 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on acp-2022-87', Anonymous Referee #2, 14 Mar 2022
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Vigneshkumar Balamurugan, 15 Apr 2022
  • RC3: 'Comment on acp-2022-87', Anonymous Referee #3, 17 Mar 2022
    • AC3: 'Reply on RC3', Vigneshkumar Balamurugan, 15 Apr 2022

Vigneshkumar Balamurugan et al.

Vigneshkumar Balamurugan et al.

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Short summary
In this study, we investigated the response of secondary pollutants to changes in precursors emissions, focusing on the formation of secondary PM, during COVID-19 lockdown period. We show that, due to the decrease in primary NOX emissions, atmospheric oxidizing capacity is increased. The night-time increase in ozone, caused by less NO titration, results in higher NO3 radicals, which contribute significantly to the formation of PM nitrates. O3 should be limited in order to control PM pollution.
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