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What are different measures of mobility changes telling us about emission reductions during the COVID-19 pandemic?
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  • Johannes Gensheimer,
  • Alex Turner,
  • Ankit Shekhar,
  • Adrian Wenzel,
  • Jia Chen,
  • Frank N. Keutsch
Johannes Gensheimer
Technical University of Munich, Technical University of Munich

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Alex Turner
University of Washington, University of Washington
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Ankit Shekhar
ETH Zurich, ETH Zurich
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Adrian Wenzel
Technical University of Munich, Technical University of Munich
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Jia Chen
Technical University of Munich, Technical University of Munich
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Frank N. Keutsch
School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
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The COVID-19 pandemic led to widespread reductions in mobility and induced observable changes in the atmosphere. Recent work has employed novel mobility datasets as a proxy for trace gas emissions from traffic, yet there has been little work evaluating these emission numbers. Here, we systematically compare these mobility datasets to traffic data from local governments in seven diverse urban and rural regions to characterize the magnitude of errors in emissions that result from using the mobility data. We observe differences in excess of 60% between these mobility datasets and local traffic data, which result in large errors in emission estimates. We could not find a general functional relationship between mobility data and traffic flow over all regions. Future work should be cautious when using these mobility metrics for emission estimates. Further, we use the local government data to identify emission reductions from traffic in the range of 7-22% in 2020 compared to 2019.
16 Jun 2021Published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres volume 126 issue 11. 10.1029/2021JD034664