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The coronavirus pandemic's affect on air quality

Posted at 5:32 PM, May 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-22 11:43:54-04

NEW YORK — There's been a big cut in carbon emissions since the pandemic.

NOAA’s latest research project examines how the pandemic has impacted climate pollution.

Xinrong Ren is a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland’s Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. He is a part of the team tracking the change in air quality dating back to this past February, before the height of the pandemic. The results so that air quality improved 50% at the height of the pandemic compared to the same time last year in the Northeast.

It takes two to three hours to load 500 lbs of equipment aboard this Cessna before traveling from Maryland to NYC. These canisters connect to piping that’s attached to a device outside of the plane. The real-time air samples are collected and sent back to the lab.

From there, they create these graphs to compare the relationship between different greenhouses gases to estimate air quality. They’re also able to compare the pollutants with wind patterns to find out where the pollution is coming from.

Even though the city rates higher compared to other parts of the northeast, pollution is still much lower than before. But it won’t last long. There’s already a shift underway as states continue to open up.

Dr. Ren says There was been a 30 percent increase in pollution since the height of the pandemic. He and his team will continue to monitor the air quality across the Northeast through the fall. In the meantime, does give some insight on how we can reduce our carbon footprint.

That could mean more people working from home and less cars on the roads. The future depends on us.