The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic and atmospheric composition: back to the future

WashU affiliated authors: Randall V. Martin (Dept. of Energy, Environmental, and Chemical Engineering)

Abstract: The COVID-19 global pandemic and associated government lockdowns dramatically altered human activity, providing a window into how changes in individual behavior, enacted en masse, impact atmospheric composition. The resulting reductions in anthropogenic activity represent an unprecedented event that yields a glimpse into both the past and a future where emissions to the atmosphere are reduced. While air pollutants and greenhouse gases share many common anthropogenic sources, there is a sharp difference in the response of their atmospheric concentrations to COVID-19 emissions changes due in large part to their different lifetimes. Here, we discuss the lessons learned from the COVID-19 disruptions for future mitigation strategies and our current and future Earth observing system.