What happened to Air Quality after the strict COVID-19 lockdowns? During last year many cities and countries reported that air quality had a drastic improvement due to the preventive measures and mobility restrictions. But, what happened after the restrictions were eased? In this comprehensive research from Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) in collaboration with Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research (IDAEA-CSIC) we analyzed air quality changes before/during/after lockdowns using fixed stations and satellite imagery.

The research is freely available in Springer: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11869-021-01000-2


The preventive and cautionary measures taken by the UAE and Abu Dhabi governments to reduce the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and promote social distancing have led to a reduction of mobility and a modification of economic and social activities. This paper provides statistical analysis of the air quality data monitored by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) during the first 10 months of 2020, comparing the different stages of the preventive measures. Ground monitoring data is compared with satellite images and mobility indicators. The study shows a drastic decrease during lockdown in the concentration of the gaseous pollutants analysed (NO2, SO2, CO, and C6H6) that aligns with the results reported in other international cities and metropolitan areas. However, particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) averaged concentrations followed a markedly different trend from the gaseous pollutants, indicating a larger influence from natural events (sand and dust storms) and other anthropogenic sources. The ozone (O3) levels increased during the lockdown, showing the complexity of O3 formation. The end of lockdown led to an increase of the mobility and the air pollution; however, air pollutant concentrations remained in lower levels than during the same period of 2019. The results in this study show the large impact of human activities on the quality of air and present an opportunity for policymakers and decision-makers to design stimulus packages to overcome the economic slow-down, with strategies to accelerate the transition to resilient, low-emission economies and societies more connected to the nature that protect human health and the environment.

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