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New study reveals York’s air quality improves by 30 per cent during lockdown

Posted on 24 April 2020

York’s air quality has improved significantly during the coronavirus lockdown, according to research by a University of York academic.

Data from local traffic monitoring sites was used in the research

Dr David Carslaw, from the Department of Chemistry, who is an expert in urban air pollution has analysed data from local traffic monitoring sites as part of an ongoing project. The data was compared against an estimated “business as usual” level.

The analysis shows improvements in air quality (nitrogen dioxide concentrations) of 30 per cent on average across the city.

Significant drop

The most significant drop across the city was a 43 per cent reduction in nitrogen dioxide concentrations in Fishergate. There was a 28 per cent reduction in Fulford Road and a 29 per cent reduction in both Gillygate and Lawrence Street. The lowest drop was recorded in Bootham of 16 per cent. 

According to Defra’s clean air strategy 2019 there are a number of deaths a year nationally, and children are suffering life-long health problems, as a result of poor air quality.

Air pollution 

Dr David Carslaw said: “There has been widespread coverage of how air pollution has changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The satellite measurements sourced have been especially compelling, showing the before and after situation for many of the world’s cities. We do of course have hundreds of ground-based continuous air pollution monitors across the UK that can also be investigated to better understand the changes in air pollution at a local level.

“This analysis is a first look at some potential changes in air pollution due to COVID-19. As more data becomes available, the robustness of these estimated changes should increase. However, it is already clear that there has been a dramatic and mostly consistent decrease in poor air quality (NOx) across a wide range of sites, including York.”


Cllr Paula Widdowson, the City of York’s executive member for the environment and climate change, said: “The impact of the Coronavirus lockdown has had a significant impact on air quality in the city. The council has invested in a number of measures in recent years to help improve air quality in York, and we will continue to do so for the benefit of our communities.”


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