The impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on greenhouse gases: a multi-city analysis of in situ atmospheric observations

V. Monteiro, N. L. Miles, S. J. Richardson, J. Turnbull, A. Karion, J. Kim, L. Mitchell, J. C. Lin, M. Sargent, S. Wofsy, F. Vogel, K. J. Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We tested the capabilities of urban greenhouse gas (GHG) measurement networks to detect abrupt changes in emissions, such as those caused by the roughly 6-week COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020 using hourly in situ GHG mole fraction measurements from six North American cities. We compared observed changes in CO2, CO, and CH4 for different mole fraction metrics (diurnal amplitude, vertical gradients, enhancements, within-hour variances, and multi-gas enhancement ratios) during 2020 relative to previous years for three periods: pre-lockdown, lockdown, and ongoing recovery. The networks showed decreases in CO2 and CO metrics during the lockdown period in all cities for all metrics, while changes in the CH4 metrics were variable across cities and not statistically significant. Traffic decreases in 2020 were correlated with the changes in GHG metrics, whereas changes in meteorology and biology were not, implying that decreases in the CO2 and CO metrics were related to reduced emissions from traffic and demonstrating the sensitivity of these tower networks to rapid changes in urban emissions. The enhancements showed signatures of the lockdowns more consistently than the three micrometeorological methods, possibly because the urban measurements are collected at relatively high altitudes to be sensitive to whole-city emissions. This suggests that urban observatories might benefit from a mixture of measurement altitudes to improve observational network sensitivity to both city-scale and more local fluxes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number041004
JournalEnvironmental Research Communications
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • General Environmental Science
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Geology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science


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