EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Complex geographical causes of different levels of air pollution changes caused by COVID-19 sanctions in Europe

György Varga1,2, Adrienn Csávics1,2, and Fruzsina Gresina1,3
György Varga et al.
  • 1Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences, Budapest, Hungary (
  • 2Department of Meteorology, Eötvös University, Budapest, Hungary
  • 3Department of Environmental and Landscape Geography, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary

Our globalised world, with its many acute natural and social problems, has now created all the conditions for pandemics. The COVID-19 pandemic is the first real manifestation of this in our modern history, affecting every geographical region, every social class and almost every single economic sector. The spread of the epidemic, which was accompanied by extremely severe social and economic devastation and damage, was sanctioned by reducing people's social activity and high mobility. The measures have also been accompanied, obviously, by a reduction in some of the environmental stresses resulting from anthropogenic activity.

Our research investigates the relationship between satellite remote sensing air pollution data and sanctions related to the coronavirus epidemic, taking into account complex physical- and socio-geographical factors. Spatially and temporally differentiated COVID-19 sanctions and lockdowns (home office orders, curfews, service closures, shutdowns) have different atmospheric environmental impacts in different physical geographic regions (topography and circulation, vegetation cover, natural aerosol loads, etc.) and in areas with different socio-economic characteristics. Our aim was to identify the individual effects of the complex processes underlying the changes in atmospheric environment indicators that have not been observed before.

In this paper, NO2 and atmospheric aerosol are presented in detail, with a clear distinction between atmospheric substances of purely anthropogenic origin and those typically interpreted as natural pollutants (e.g. Saharan dust). A comparative analysis of these, using data from 2019, 2020 and 2021, highlights the spatiotemporal characteristics of the period before, during and after COVID-19 sanctions. For this purpose, Sentinel-5p and MODIS Aerosol Optical Depth data were used. The different changes in the air environment in Western and Eastern European countries, and in particular in some industrial regions, are clearly visible in the series of maps presented.

The research was supported by the project POST-COVID2021-29 of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

How to cite: Varga, G., Csávics, A., and Gresina, F.: Complex geographical causes of different levels of air pollution changes caused by COVID-19 sanctions in Europe, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-8845,, 2023.