When governments introduced stay-home measures in early 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic, air pollution fell, in general, thanks to reduced traffic and the closure of industrial plants.
The UAE itself enjoyed a significant drop in nitrogen dioxide levels between February and April of that year, figures published by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment showed, due to the scaled-down activities.
However, a new study by scientists in the Emirates has found that, against expectations, concentrations of tiny particulate matter in the air in eastern Arabia, including the UAE, increased during this time.
The study reports that from March to June 2020, the level of particulate matter (PM) in eastern Arabia was 30 per cent higher than the average seen from 2016 to 2019.
The increases in particulate matter were “indeed a surprising finding”, said the study’s first author, Dr Diana Francis, who heads the Environmental and Geophysical Sciences (ENGEOS) Laboratory at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi.