Observed Impacts of COVID-19 on Urban CO2 Emissions

Turner, A. J., J. Kim, H. Fitzmaurice, C. Newman, K. Worthington, K. Chan, P. J. Wooldridge, P. Köehler, C. Frankenberg, and R. C. Cohen (2021), Observed Impacts of COVID-19 on Urban CO2 Emissions, Geophys. Res. Lett..

Governments restricted mobility and effectively shuttered much of the global economy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Six San Francisco Bay Area counties were the first region in the United States to issue a “shelter-in-place” order asking non-essential workers to stay home. Here we use CO2 observations from 35 Berkeley Environment, Air-quality and CO2 Network (BEACO2 N) nodes and an atmospheric transport model to quantify changes in urban CO2 emissions due to the order. We infer hourly emissions at 900-m spatial resolution for 6 weeks before and 6 weeks during the order. We observe a 30% decrease in anthropogenic CO2 emissions during the order and show that this decrease is primarily due to changes in traffic (–48%) with pronounced changes to daily and weekly cycles; non-traffic emissions show small changes (–8%). These findings provide a glimpse into a future with reduced CO2 emissions through electrification of vehicles. Plain Language Summary This work uses atmospheric observations to quantify the changes in urban CO2 emissions from different sectors in response to COVID-19 mobility regulations.