Reasons for the observed tropospheric ozone weakening over south-western Europe during COVID-19: strict lockdown versus the new normal
In this work we investigate the variation in tropospheric ozone concentrations in south-western Europe in March and April 2020 in the context of COVID-19 disease, and to what extent the former situation has been recovered one year after the pandemic outbreak. To carry this study, data from 15 regional background sites in Spain, from 2010 onwards, are used. Historic (2010–2019) and most recent tropospheric ozone concentrations are compared. March and April 2020 ozone concentrations declined over 15% in most cases, rising to 23–28% at sites facing the Mediterranean. Most of the decay was related to the reduction of hemispheric background concentrations, but those sites downwind continental emissions from the Iberian Peninsula and neighbouring countries experienced an additional lessening. By exploring O3 concentrations one year after, March and April 2021, the general decline with respect to 2010–2019 persist but its magnitude was substantially lessened with respect to the strict lockdown period. This pandemic situation has unveiled that air pollution is not an endemic matter but it should be tackle with adequate actions. Ozone abatement plans for Mediterranean countries should need a pan-regional covenant in order to drop precursor emissions.