By: Zoey Trombley
Summary: Due to the shelter in place order that has been enacted in California the air quality there has been much cleaner. This has to do with the fact that many people are staying home from school and work, meaning that motor vehicle traffic and industrial activities are greatly reduced. Motor vehicles are responsible for about 30% of the fine particles that are found in soot and that accumulates in the air. However, since people have started staying home because of the coronavirus, motor vehicle activity at Bay Area bridges has been approximately 70% lower. Due to this decrease the amount of tiny particles that are found in soot have declined by approximately 20%.
The decrease in driving has also impacted the amount of nitrogen oxide, which is a chemical found in smog, and carbon dioxide found in the air. Within the Bay Area nitrogen oxide has been reduced by 40% and carbon dioxide has decreased by 20%. Counties all over the Bay Area are seeing increases in air quality. Each week air-quality sensors are measuring less and less particulate matter in the air. Within the last two weeks these sensors have shown the lowest averages of particulate matter of any week so far in 2020. Each county has seen a decrease in soot and smog, Oakland has had a 21% decrease, San Jose 36%, and San Francisco 41%.
Experts state that this is just a temporary increase in air-quality and that air pollutants will go back up when economic activity picks up again. However, for people with health issues such as asthma and the elderly, this momentarily clean air is highly beneficial. There is data showing that the number of Bay Area deaths from air pollution has reduced to about 10 a week since the coronavirus shutdown. While Covid-19 is in no way a good thing it has shown a future worth striving for when it comes to air-quality. Hopefully in the future we are able to see air-quality increase again as electric vehicles become more available and more air pollution laws are required for factories. This has given us more insight on why we need to change how the economy runs, so it can be more beneficial to the environment and our health.
Why we should care? The coronavirus has given us an opportunity to see what air-quality could look like in the future if we continue to work on implementing air pollutant regulations, higher availability of electronic vehicles, and changing the economy to run in a way that is more beneficial for the environment.
Example News Article:
For me the article “Coronavirus: Bay Area Air Quality is Improving as People Stay Home”, was interesting to me because it is amazing to see almost immediate environmental changes that happen when the economy is halted. It is no secret that how we live our lives is the main contributor to environmental issues, and when it comes to air-quality motor vehicle use and industrial activities are the two main pollutants to our air. It is incredible to see how quickly air-quality starts to improve when these two major economic activities are reduced. Our health is also directly related to air-quality, the article mentions since air-quality has improved so has respiratory related illnesses in different parts of the world such as China, Italy, and California. The coronavirus shut downs have given us a chance to see how changing our economic practices could help us remedy environmental issues, like air-quality. This temporary improvement in air-quality is a good example of why in the future we should change our economic practices to ones that are more beneficial to our health and the environment.
Science in Action.
Dr. Ronald C. Cohen is Director at Berkeley Atmospheric Center and Professor of Chemistry and of Earth and Planetary Sciences.
Professor Cohen does research on the chemical composition of the Earth’s atmosphere. He uses experimental and new modeling strategies to understand past atmospheric composition which will help to predict future chemical compositional changes. Currently his research is focusing on nitrogen oxides and water isotopes. Through his research he is trying to understand the atmospheric residence time of nitrogen oxides, the global impact nitrogen oxides have on oxidants, and how they impact the biosphere and aerosol properties.
Professor Cohen’s research is relevant to my blog topic because what he is studying is directly related to air-quality control. His research focuses on how certain chemicals alter the Earth’s atmosphere which can impact our air-quality. He also studies past atmospheric compositions which is important for predicting what the air-quality will look like in the future.