COVID-19 induced lower-tropospheric ozone changes

Mariano Mertens*, Patrick Jöckel, Sigrun Matthes, Matthias Nützel, Volker Grewe, Robert Sausen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
23 Downloads (Pure)


The recent COVID-19 pandemic with its countermeasures, e.g. lock-downs, resulted in decreases in emissions of various trace gases. Here we investigate the changes of ozone over Europe associated with these emission reductions using a coupled global/regional chemistry climate model. We conducted and analysed a business as usual and a sensitivity (COVID19) simulation. A source apportionment (tagging) technique allows us to make a sector-wise attribution of these changes, e.g. to natural and anthropogenic sectors such as land transport. Our simulation results show a decrease of ozone of 8% over Europe in May 2020 due to the emission reductions. The simulated reductions are in line with observed changes in ground-level ozone. The source apportionment results show that this decrease is mainly due to the decreased ozone precursors from anthropogenic origin. Further, our results show that the ozone reduction is much smaller than the reduction of the total NO x emissions (around 20%), mainly caused by an increased ozone production efficiency. This means that more ozone is produced for each emitted NO x molecule. Hence, more ozone is formed from natural emissions and the ozone productivities of the remaining anthropogenic emissions increase. Our results show that politically induced emissions reductions cannot be transferred directly to ozone reductions, which needs to be considered when designing mitigation strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number064005
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • air quality
  • COVID-19
  • ozone
  • source attribution

Cite this