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Daniel Charles Thomas

The effect of the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown on atmospheric black carbon levels in northeastern Greenland

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The outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 and subsequent spread of the disease COVID-19 became classified as a pandemic in March of 2020, leading to global safety measures introduced to limit the impact of the virus. This combination of safety measures has become commonly referred to as “lockdown”. The associated industry and lifestyle changes led to reductions in the anthropogenic emission of atmospheric pollutants such as black carbon (BC), which is transported from the mid-latitudes into the Arctic during the winter and spring. Measurements of BC and other anthropogenic pollutants are of increasing importance in the Arctic due to the rapid warming observed there in the past few decades. It is believed that BC has a significant role in this warming, and so understanding the Arctic's response to reduced BC emissions at lower latitudes will provide insight into how future changes might mitigate further warming. Reductions in BC have been reported worldwide, and so in this study, the impact of these reductions on BC concentrations at the High Arctic site Villum Research Station was investigated. The effect was examined from March 2020, around when global lockdowns began, to June 2020, when the Arctic haze period ended and BC levels were once again low. Firstly, the Danish Eulerian Hemispheric Model (DEHM) was used to assess this impact on BC concentrations by adjusting global anthropogenic pollution emission inventories to simulate those observed during the lockdown period and comparing the results to a similar model run with standard emission inventories. Secondly, equivalent BC data from an aethalometer at Villum Research Station were analysed, comparing the concentrations during the lockdown period to both aethalometer data from previous years and DEHM results from the lockdown period. It was found that when adjusted DEHM emission inventories were introduced from the 1st of March, the model predicted a reduction in BC concentrations beginning on the 10th of March and reached a 10% reduction by the 1st of April. This reduction fluctuated around 10% until the end of the Arctic haze period. Aethalometer data did not show any significant change from previous years, and no concentration reduction could be concluded from its comparison with DEHM results. This is likely because the predicted reduction of 10% is smaller than both the inter-annual and intra-annual variability of measured BC concentrations at Villum.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118853
JournalAtmospheric environment
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

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