Global Significant Changes in Formaldehyde (HCHO) Columns Observed From Space at the Early Stage of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Geophys Res Lett. 2021 Feb 28;48(4):2e020GL091265. doi: 10.1029/2020GL091265. Epub 2021 Feb 23.


Satellite HCHO data are widely used as a reliable proxy of non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs) to constrain underlying emissions and chemistry. Here, we examine global significant changes in HCHO columns at the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic (January-April 2020) compared with the same period in 2019 with observations from the TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI). HCHO columns decline (11.0%) in the Northern China Plain (NCP) because of a combination of meteorological impacts, lower HCHO yields as NO x emission plunges (by 36.0%), and reduced NMVOC emissions (by 15.0%) resulting from the lockdown. HCHO columns change near Beijing (+8.4%) due mainly to elevated hydroxyl radical as NO x emission decreases in a NO x -saturated regime. HCHO columns change in Australia (+17.5%), Northeastern Myanmar of Southeast Asia (+14.9%), Central Africa (+7.8%), and Central America (+18.9%), consistent with fire activities. Our work also points to other changes related to temperature and meteorological variations.