Mendez-Espinosa, JF; Rojas, NY; Vargas, J; Pachon, JE; Belalcazar, LC; Ramirez, O (2020). Air quality variations in Northern South America during the COVID-19 lockdown. SCIENCE OF THE TOTAL ENVIRONMENT, 749, 141621.

Lockdown measures led to air pollution decrease in several countries around the world such as China and India, whereas other regions experimented an increase in pollutant concentrations. Northern South America (NSA) was one of those areas where pollution changed during lockdown due to high fire activity. This study aims to analyze, for the first time in NSA, the behavior of selected criteria air pollutants during the implementation of the SARS-CoV-2 lockdown in two high populated cities of the region: Bogota and Medellin in Colombia. A set of tools including surface measurements, as well as satellite and modeled data were used. 24-hour average concentrations of PM10, PM2.5, and NO2 were collected from air quality stations for the lockdown period ranging from February 21 to June 30, 2020. The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) was used to analyze the fire flux OC as a biomass burning (BB) indicator, and tropospheric NO2 concentrations were retrieved from TROPOML The HYSPLIT model was used to analyze back trajectories and fire data were obtained from MODIS sensor measurements. Our analysis shows short-term background NO2, PM10, and PM2.5 concentration reductions of 60%, 44%, and 40%, respectively, for the strict lockdown; and 62%, 58%, and 69% for the relaxed lockdown. Corresponding long-term reductions were of 50%, 32%, and 9% for the strict lockdown; and 37%, 29%, and 19% for the relaxed lockdown. Regional BB increased PM2.5 concentrations by 20 mu g/m(3) during the strict lockdown, and the Saharan dust event increased PM10 concentrations up to 168 mu g/m(3) in Bogota, and 104 mu g/m(3) in Medellin, bringing an additional risk of morbidity and mortality for population. Regional BB has several causes that need to be properly managed to benefit local air quality improvement plans. Future cleaner transport policies equivalent to reduced lockdown mobility could bring pollution close to WHO guidelines. (C) 2020 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.