Differences in aerosol chemistry at a regional background site in Hong Kong before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Publication date: Mar 25, 2024

Restrictions on human-related activities implemented in Hong Kong to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic provided an opportunity to investigate the anthropogenic impact on organic aerosols (OA) composition. In this study, we conducted a comparative analysis of online measurements of non-refractory submicron particulate matters (NR-PM) at a regional background site in Hong Kong, covering the periods before the COVID-19 control (November 2018) and during the COVID-19 control (October to November 2020), to investigate changes in OA sources and formation mechanisms. Among the measured NR-PM components, organics were the most dominant species with an average percentage of 51. 0 +/- 0. 5 %, exceeding pre-control levels of 44. 0 +/- 0. 7 %. Moreover, 88 % of the organics were attributed to oxygenated OA (OOA). Diurnal variations of all bulk components in NR-PM consistently showed afternoon peaks, indicating photochemical processes during COVID-19 control. Similar to the pre-restriction period, the positive matrix factorization (PMF) model showed that OOA was composed of three factors, including two less-oxidized oxygenated factors (LO-OOA1 and LO-OOA2) and one more-oxidized oxygenated factor (MO-OOA). The contribution of the LO-OOA2 factor remained small and stable during both sampling campaigns, which might imply background levels of OOA at this site. The formation of the two predominant components of organics (e. g., LO-OOA1 and MO-OOA) was further discussed. Compared with before control, observational evidence showed that the levels of MO-OOA exceeded LO-OOA1 during the control period, and the average concentration of odd oxygen (O = ozone + nitrogen dioxide) increased by 53 % during the COVID-19 control. Besides, the results showed that both LO-OOA1 and MO-OOA exhibited similar diurnal variations to O, and their concentrations generally enhanced with increasing O levels. This suggested that the formation of OOA was closely related to the photochemical oxidation processes when anthropogenic emissions were reduced. By correlating LO-OOA1 and MO-OOA with speciated OA markers, we found that the formation of LO-OOA1 remained associated with anthropogenic sources, while biogenic emissions contributed to the formation of MO-OOA during the COVID-19 control. Our findings highlight the interplay between emissions, atmospheric conditions, and aerosol composition, providing valuable insights to guide strategic decisions for future air quality improvement.

Concepts Keywords
Afternoon AMS measurement
Anthropogenic COVID-19
Coronavirus Photochemical process
Covid Secondary organic aerosol


Type Source Name
disease IDO site
disease MESH COVID-19 pandemic
drug DRUGBANK Oxygen
drug DRUGBANK Ozone
drug DRUGBANK Medical air
disease IDO quality
disease MESH Long Covid
disease IDO process

Original Article

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