Evidence of aircraft activity impact on local air quality: A study in the context of uncommon airport operation

Tao Hu , Hao Xu , Kai Xiao , Jun Pan , Qingyan Fu , Xiaodong Wei , Junrui Zhou , Yamei Yu , Xue Hu , Huarui Ren , Jinping Cheng , Shitao Peng , Ningning Hong , Yin Ye , Ning Su , Zehui He


Received May 26, 2021,Revised , Accepted February 22, 2022, Available online March 07, 2022

Volume 35,2023,Pages 603-615

Wuhan Tianhe International Airport (WUH) was suspended to contain the spread of COVID-19, while Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport (SHA) saw a tremendous flight reduction. Closure of a major international airport is extremely rare and thus represents a unique opportunity to straightforwardly observe the impact of airport emissions on local air quality. In this study, a series of statistical tools were applied to analyze the variations in air pollutant levels in the vicinity of WUH and SHA. The results of bivariate polar plots show that airport SHA and WUH are a major source of nitrogen oxides. NOx, NO2 and NO diminished by 55.8%, 44.1%, 76.9%, and 40.4%, 33.3% and 59.4% during the COVID-19 lockdown compared to those in the same period of 2018 and 2019, under a reduction in aircraft activities by 58.6% and 61.4%. The concentration of NO2, SO2 and PM2.5 decreased by 77.3%, 8.2%, 29.5%, right after the closure of airport WUH on 23 January 2020. The average concentrations of NO, NO2 and NOx scatter plots at downwind of SHA after the lockdown were 78.0%, 47.9%, 57.4% and 62.3%, 34.8%, 41.8% lower than those during the same period in 2018 and 2019. However, a significant increase in O3 levels by 50.0% and 25.9% at WUH and SHA was observed, respectively. These results evidently show decreased nitrogen oxides concentrations in the airport vicinity due to reduced aircraft activities, while amplified O3 pollution due to a lower titration by NO under strong reduction in NOx emissions.

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