Researchers at Khalifa University studied the periodicity of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) over the United Arab Emirates, with particular focus on how human activities in the country related to the concentration levels, especially after the Covid-19 lockdown.
Nitrogen oxides may not be the primary greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, but they do contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, a major pollutant that causes environmental and health concerns. Many areas around the world have seen steep declines in nitrogen oxides levels in recent years following strengthened regulations, but other countries still experience high levels with significant consequences for air quality and public health.
Dr. Zeyar Aung, Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Khalifa University, and PhD candidate Aishah Al Yammahi studied the periodicity of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) over the United Arab Emirates. They were interested in how human activities in the country related to the concentration levels, especially after the Covid-19 lockdown. The researchers found that the NO2 concentrations in desert areas were unaffected by the lockdown period, but urban areas showed a reduction. Their results also showed that NO2 is more highly concentrated during winter.
Al Yammahi and Dr. Aung published their results in Nature Scientific Reports.
“Nitrogen dioxide and nitric oxide (NO) are the most reactive gases in the atmosphere,” said Dr. Aung, who conducted the using data from 14 weather stations across the UAE from 2019 to 2020.
“The desert locations showed the lower concentrations of NO2, while the downtown Abu Dhabi and industrial area stations exhibited the highest overall concentration levels,” he said.
The concentration of NO2 in rural desert areas such as Liwa and Al Quaa was unaffected during the pandemic lockdown period, but stations in Abu Dhabi, Al Dhafra and Al Ain showed a reduction. These findings were consistent with those of similar studies conducted in China, Poland, and India.
This implies that NO2 concentration generally tends to last longer in less-populated areas, Dr. Aung said. This is probably because human activities cause more dynamic atmospheric conditions.
The researchers also found a “generally seasonal pattern” of NO2 concentrations in the UAE. They noticed a good correlation in the concentration profiles of stations located in areas of similar land uses even if these stations were geographically distanced.
“The concentration of NO2 in the atmosphere fluctuates according to human activities and the presence of factories in industrial areas,” Dr. Aung said. “Tracking the variability of NO2 concentrations needs to be studied accordingly with population intensity and other environmental factors, such as temperature, which affects the movement of NO2 in the atmosphere. It is vital to study the concentration of NO2 via many other natural trappers, such as water and sand, because NO2 can change from one location to another. As a future work, we plan to study the environmental concentration of NO2 in the sand in the UAE.”
20 March 2023