COVID-19: A unique air quality study?

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Of course, COVID-19 also affected us, leading to working from home, interruption of routine aircraft turbine emission measurements at SR Technics, or to additional workload linked to remote teaching activities.

On a positive note, COVID-19 offered the unique situation of drastic reductions in road as well as air traffic. At Zurich airport, there were days with less than 10% of the usual number of aircraft movements! While the sudden reduction of noise from approaching and departing aircraft was immediately noticed (we guess, with satisfaction) by those living in the neighborhood of the airport, we preferred to focus on our specialization: Air quality.

Stopping our emission measurement activities at the SR Technics facility meant that all our instruments were available for immissions measurement in the surroundings of the airport. We skipped the dilution step used in direct exhaust sampling and configured our instruments to sample ambient air. We measured a wide range of pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, volatile and non-volatile particles in the size range from a few nanometers up to ten micrometers.

Due to various circumstances, we waited for meteorological conditions with a dominant SW-W wind direction. Yet, during a long time frame of the soft lockdown situation in Switzerland, a solid “Bise” – a typical NE-blowing wind in Switzerland – prevented any sensible campaigns. But as always, good things come to those who wait; finally, a short 3-day window of opportunity with weak westerly winds appeared.

We packed everything up and managed to install our instruments in the vicinity of the airport within a few hours.

For 48 hours, we continuously monitored our instruments and recorded a nice set of very interesting and unique data.

While a thorough analysis and some additional datasets are required, we’re just very thankful that this tiring and intense, yet short campaign could take place.

Stay tuned!

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