Special Issue on COVID-19 Aerosol Drivers, Impacts and Mitigation (XII)

Mahlatse Kganyago This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.1,2,  Lerato Shikwambana1,2

1 Earth Observation Directorate, South African National Space Agency, Pretoria 0001, South Africa
2 School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg 2050, South Africa

Received: July 30, 2020
Revised: November 13, 2020
Accepted: November 17, 2020

 Copyright The Author(s). This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are cited.

Download Citation: ||https://doi.org/10.4209/aaqr.2020.07.0470  

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Cite this article:

Kganyago, M., Shikwambana, L. (2021). Did COVID-19 Lockdown Restrictions have an Impact on Biomass Burning Emissions in Sub-Saharan Africa? Aerosol Air Qual. Res. 21, 200470. https://doi.org/10.4209/aaqr.2020.07.0470


  • Biomass burning emissions were investigated in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).
  • 17.8% increase in the CO is observed in SSA during COVID-19 lockdown.
  • 20% increase in smoke+polluted dust AOD is observed during COVID-19 lockdown.
  • Escaped fires from agriculture increased fire density, burned area, and emissions.
  • Higher biomass emissions in 2020 have implications for COVID-19 patients in SSA.


Across Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), biomass burning for land clearance, grazing management, and eradication of invasive plant species emit various pollutants into the atmosphere and thus affect air quality, human health, and microclimates. The seasonality of fire events generally follows that of rainfall. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Africa in February 2020, several countries have implemented lockdown regulations that restrict mobility, trade, and other socio-economic activities. It is not clear how the lockdown restrictions would affect wildfire spread, density, and emissions. This study sought to address this gap by analysing changes in Black Carbon (BC), smoke+polluted dust AOD, and Carbon monoxide (CO), as well as the burned area (BA) and fire density using multi-source data at periods consistent with lockdown restrictions. Generally, the results indicated an increase in emissions (CO, BC, smoke+polluted dust AOD) due to COVID-19 lockdown. Specifically, increases of 0.008 mol m2 in CO and 20% in smoke+polluted dust AOD were observed in the SSA region during COVID-19 lockdown. The majority of emissions resulted from the burning of forest cover (FC), cultivated lands (CL), and shrublands (SL) due to escaped fires from agricultural activities. The BA and fire density were also higher in the COVID-19 year (2020) than the previous year (2019), which was suspected to be caused by the closure of or not fully operated fire authorities due to the COVID-19 lockdown. The increasing biomass burning emissions, as shown here, have important implications for air quality and public health.

Keywords: COVID-19, Wildfires, Atmospheric emissions, Sentinel-5P, MODIS

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