Climate response to COVID-19-related decrease in anthropogenic aerosol emissions in China

Axel Timmermann, Sun-Seon Lee, Jung-Eun Chu, Eui-Seok Chung, June-Yi Lee

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Received Date: 7th May 20

The COVID-19 pandemichas led to massive disruptions of public life on a global scale. To halt the spread of the disease, China temporarily shut down parts of the manufacturing and transportation sectors in February 2020. Associated anthropogenic aerosol emissions plunged to record lows, causing a temporary improvement of air quality with unknown effects on atmospheric radiation and climate. To determine the regional and remote climatic impacts of a wide-spread reduction of anthropogenic aerosol emissions in China in early 2020, we conduct a series of sensitivity experiments with a state-of-the art Earth System Model. By reducing February anthropogenic aerosol emissions by 65%, we find evidence for a substantial increase in cloud droplet size and a corresponding enhancement of low cloud cover over Eastern China which intensifies longwave downwelling radiation at the surface but reduces incoming shortwave fluxes, in accordance with observational data. Remote climatic effects of the improvement in air quality can be further identified over the Korean Peninsula and southern Japan. Even though regional climatic responses were only short-lived, the COVID-19-related human interference with earth’s radiation balance may hold important clues on how the climate system will respond to the implementation of future long-term air-pollution mitigation strategies.

Read in full at EarthArXiv.

This is an abstract of a preprint hosted on an independent third party site. It has not been peer reviewed but is currently under consideration at Nature Communications.

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