44ºF

Beyond The Forecast: NASA says air pollution down in the U.S. amid coronavirus pandemic

FILE - In this Dec. 10, 2015, file photo, vehicles make their way westbound on Interstate 80 across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge as seen from Treasure Island in San Francisco. California Gov. California regulators will hold a public hearing on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019 about whether to require a certain percentage of truck sales to be zero emission vehicles. California has some of the worst air quality in the nation, largely driven by pollution from cars and trucks. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 10, 2015, file photo, vehicles make their way westbound on Interstate 80 across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge as seen from Treasure Island in San Francisco. California Gov. California regulators will hold a public hearing on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019 about whether to require a certain percentage of truck sales to be zero emission vehicles. California has some of the worst air quality in the nation, largely driven by pollution from cars and trucks. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

We’re in the third month of our new normal amid the COVID-19 outbreak: staying at home and traveling less. While it’s been a tough transition for many of us, there has been at least one positive benefit.

NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio released a report last week that details the reduction in air pollution in the United States over the past few weeks.

The researchers specifically investigated the reduction of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), an air pollutant primarily emitted from fossil fuels burned when you’re driving a car or in factories producing electricity.

The Northeast U.S. and its major metropolitan areas like New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. have been a hotbed for NO2 in recent years. This graphic shows the average NO2 each March from 2015 to 2019.

photo

With stay-at-home orders and reduced transportation, the NASA researchers found that there was a significant reduction in NO2 levels during March of 2020. The change is especially noticeable by viewing the New York City metropolitan area, where the concentration of incredibly high NO2 levels went way down.

photo

NASA found similar reductions in NO2 across the Southeast and Florida, where the COVID-19 outbreak started slightly later.

The researchers investigated the average NO2 from March 15 to April 15 the last five years and compared it to the same timeframe this year. It’s important to note that the NO2 legend used in these graphics is slightly different than the Northeast U.S. ones.

photo
photo

You can read more details about the researchers’ methodology and the care they took with the satellite NO2 data in the full report.

Switching gears to this week’s forecast, we’ll be warm to start the first full week of May with highs in the 70s today. Unfortunately, the warmth will not stick with us as we’ll cool down for Tuesday and the models are indicating we could see more chilly weather for Mother’s Day weekend. Chris Michaels has a great breakdown of what we’re tracking here.

You can always get specific forecast details for your zone, whether it’s the Roanoke Valley, Southside, the New River Valley, or elswhere around southwest Virginia, anytime at WSLS.com/weather. Know your zone!

In case you missed it, we’re posting great weather content on WSLS.com. Here are a few links from the past week to check out:

If you prefer your weather information delivered by social media, you can find Your Local Weather Authority on Facebook and Twitter.

-- Justin McKee


About the Author: