Spatiotemporal impacts of COVID-19 on air pollution in California, USA

Qian Liu, Jackson T. Harris, Long S. Chiu, Donglian Sun, Paul R. Houser, Manzhu Yu, Daniel Q. Duffy, Michael M. Little, Chaowei Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Various recent studies have shown that societal efforts to mitigate (e.g. “lockdown”) the outbreak of the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) caused non-negligible impacts on the environment, especially air quality. To examine if interventional policies due to COVID-19 have had a similar impact in the US state of California, this paper investigates the spatiotemporal patterns and changes in air pollution before, during and after the lockdown of the state, comparing the air quality measurements in 2020 with historical averages from 2015 to 2019. Through time series analysis, a sudden drop and uptick of air pollution are found around the dates when shutdown and reopening were ordered, respectively. The spatial patterns of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) tropospheric vertical column density (TVCD) show a decreasing trend over the locations of major powerplants and an increasing trend over residential areas near interactions of national highways. Ground-based observations around California show a 38%, 49%, and 31% drop in the concentration of NO2, carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) during the lockdown (March 19–May 7) compared to before (January 26–March 18) in 2020. These are 16%, 25% and 19% sharper than the means of the previous five years in the same periods, respectively. Our study offers evidence of the environmental impact introduced by COVID-19, and insight into related economic influences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number141592
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


Dive into the research topics of 'Spatiotemporal impacts of COVID-19 on air pollution in California, USA'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this