Air Quality in Southeast Brazil during COVID-19 Lockdown: A Combined Satellite and Ground-Based Data Analysis
With the current COVID-19 pandemic being spread all over the world, lockdown measures are being implemented, making air pollution levels go down in several countries. In this context, the air quality changes in the highly populated and trafficked Brazilian states of São Paulo (SP) and Rio de Janeiro (RJ) were addressed using a combination of satellite and ground-based daily data analysis. We explored nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) daily levels for the month of May from 2015–2020. Daily measurements of NO2 column concentrations from the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) aboard NASA’s Aura satellite were analyzed and decreases of 42% and 49.6% were found for SP and RJ, respectively, during the year 2020 compared to the 2015–2019 average. Besides NO2 column retrievals, ground-based data measured by the Brazilian States Environmental Institutions were analyzed and correlated with satellite retrievals. Correlation coefficients between year-to-year changes in satellite column and ground-based concentrations were 77% and 53% in SP and RJ, respectively. Ground-based data showed 13.3% and 18.8% decrease in NO2 levels for SP and RJ, respectively, in 2020 compared to 2019. In SP, no significant change in PM2.5 was observed in 2020 compared to 2019. To further isolate the effect of emissions reduction due to the lockdown, meteorological data and number of wildfire hotspots were analyzed. NO2 concentrations showed negative and positive correlations with wind speed and temperature, respectively. PM2.5 concentration distributions suggested an influence by the wildfires in the southeast region of the country. Synergistic analyses of satellite retrievals, surface level concentrations, and weather data provide a more complete picture of changes to pollutant levels.