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Article

Subtle Changes or Dramatic Perceptions of Air Pollution in Sydney during COVID-19

1
Department of Marine Environment and Engineering, National Sun Yat-Sen University, Kaohsiung 80424, Taiwan
2
School of Energy and Environment, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Environments 2021, 8(1), 2; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments8010002
Received: 19 November 2020 / Revised: 21 December 2020 / Accepted: 29 December 2020 / Published: 1 January 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Response to Current Air Quality Changes in Small and Large Areas)
The COVID-19 pandemic made it critical to limit the spread of the disease by enforcing human isolation, restricting travel and reducing social activities. Dramatic improvements to air quality, especially NO2, have often characterised places under COVID-19 restrictions. Air pollution measurements in Sydney in April 2019 and during the lockdown period in April 2020 show reduced daily averaged NO2 concentrations: 8.52 ± 1.92 and 7.85 ± 2.92 ppb, though not significantly so (p1~0.15) and PM2.5 8.91 ± 4.94 and 7.95 ± 2.64 µg m−3, again a non-significant difference (p1~0.18). Satellite imagery suggests changes that parallel those at ground level, but the column densities averaged over space and time, in false-colour, are more dramatic. Changed human mobility could be traced in increasing times spent at home, assessed from Google Mobility Reports and mirrored in decreased traffic flow on a major road, suggesting compliance with the restrictions. Electricity demand for the State of New South Wales was low under lockdown in early April 2020, but it recovered rapidly. Analysis of the uses of search terms: bushfires, air quality, haze and air pollution using Google Trends showed strong links between bushfires and pollution-related terms. The smoke from bushfires in late 2019 may well have added to the general impression of improved air quality during lockdown, despite only modest changes in the ground level measurements. This gives hints that successful regulation of air quality requires maintaining a delicate balance between our social perceptions and the physical reality. View Full-Text
Keywords: Australia; bushfires; lockdown; public perception; social media; traffic; visibility Australia; bushfires; lockdown; public perception; social media; traffic; visibility
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MDPI and ACS Style

Brimblecombe, P.; Lai, Y. Subtle Changes or Dramatic Perceptions of Air Pollution in Sydney during COVID-19. Environments 2021, 8, 2. https://doi.org/10.3390/environments8010002

AMA Style

Brimblecombe P, Lai Y. Subtle Changes or Dramatic Perceptions of Air Pollution in Sydney during COVID-19. Environments. 2021; 8(1):2. https://doi.org/10.3390/environments8010002

Chicago/Turabian Style

Brimblecombe, Peter, and Yonghang Lai. 2021. "Subtle Changes or Dramatic Perceptions of Air Pollution in Sydney during COVID-19" Environments 8, no. 1: 2. https://doi.org/10.3390/environments8010002

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