Minimal climate impacts from short-lived climate forcers following emission reductions related to the COVID-19 pandemic

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Shin, Youngsub 
Staunton Sykes, John 
Archer Nicholls, Scott  ORCID logo
Abraham, Nathan 

We present an assessment of the impacts on atmospheric composition and radiative forcing of short-lived pollutants following worldwide decrease in anthropogenic activity and emissions comparable to what has occurred in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, using the global composition-climate model UKCA. Emission changes reduce tropospheric hydroxyl radical and ozone burdens, increasing methane lifetime. Reduced SO2 emissions and oxidising capacity lead to a decrease in sulphate aerosol and increase in aerosol size, with accompanying reductions to cloud droplet concentration. However, large reductions in black carbon emissions increase aerosol albedo. Overall, the changes in ozone and aerosol direct effects (neglecting aerosol-cloud interactions which were statistically insignificant but whose response warrants future investigation) yield a radiative forcing of -33 to -78 mWm-2. Upon cessation of emission reductions the short-lived climate forcers rapidly return to pre-COVID levels, meaning these changes are unlikely to have lasting impacts on climate assuming emissions return to pre-intervention levels.

COVID‐19, aerosol, atmospheric chemistry, atmospheric composition, climate, climate change
Journal Title
Geophysical Research Letters
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Natural Environment Research Council (NE/P016383/1)
National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NERC) (via University of Leeds) (R8/H12/83/003)