Inter- and intra-city comparisons of PM2.5 concentration changes under COVID-19 social distancing in seven major cities of South Korea

Kyung Hwan Kwak, Beom Soon Han, Kyeongjoo Park, Sungju Moon, Han Gyul Jin, Seung Bu Park, Jong Jin Baik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted governments around the world to impose mitigation strategies of unprecedented scales, typically involving some form of restrictions on social activities and transportation. The South Korean government has been recommending a collection of guidelines now known as social distancing, leading to reduced human activities. This study analyzes changes in the concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) during the 30-day periods before and since the start of social distancing on 29 February 2020 using measurement data from air quality monitoring stations at various locations of the seven major cities of South Korea, namely, Seoul, Busan, Incheon, Daegu, Daejeon, Gwangju, and Ulsan. All seven cities experienced decreased levels of PM2.5 concentration by up to 25% and smaller fluctuations during the period of social distancing. Inter-city comparisons show that the PM2.5 concentration changes are positively correlated with the city-wide PM2.5 emission fractions for mobile sources and negatively correlated with the city-wide PM2.5 emission fractions for combustion and industrial process sources. In addition, the meteorological influences favorable for transboundary pollutant transport have weakened during the period under COVID-19 social distancing. Intra-city comparisons show that decreases in the intra-city variability of PM2.5 concentration were larger in coastal cities than in inland cities. Comparisons between the inter- and intra-city variabilities in the PM2.5 concentration changes under social distancing highlight the importance of taking into account intra-city variabilities in addition to inter-city variabilities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1155-1168
Number of pages14
JournalAir Quality, Atmosphere and Health
Volume14
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2021

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Inter-city variability
  • Intra-city variability
  • PM
  • South Korea
  • Urban air quality

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