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COVID-19 quarantines impacting air quality

San Francisco area Air Quality Index reports for March 2020.
San Francisco area Air Quality Index reports for March 2020.
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(WLUK) -- More and more people are staying at home to slow the spread of COVID-19.

And having fewer people out and about-- along with fewer industries operating-- has had some side effects on the environment, specifically on air quality.

Air quality can be a little tricky to find trends in because day-to-day weather has such a huge impact on it.

But I was able to find these maps from the Environmental Protection Agency, which show on a map where areas of degraded air quality are, as defined by their Air Quality Index.

A great example can be found if you look at the San Francisco bay area over the month of February.

You can see a clear trend every week.

Air quality starts fairly good, and steadily degrades as the work week progresses, and then resets every weekend.

But then take a look at March.

The first week started the same trend, and then that trend of air quality degradation abruptly stopped.

The rest of March barely saw any elevated Air Quality Index areas reported at all.

Los Angeles didn't quite see the same exact week to week trend in February with its air pollution, but it see that same abrupt improvement in air quality when moving from February into March.

Perhaps the most drastic changes though were in China. where far more strict quarantine and isolation practices were in effect earlier this year.

Researchers at NASA compared average nitrogen dioxide pollutant concentration from early January to late February.

In the city of Wuhan specifically, the year to year change was incredible.

This is what the two weeks after Chinese New Year in February looked like last year, and this is the same two weeks this year.

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While these improvements in air quality are likely temporary, it's still incredible to see the impact that human transportation and industry has on the environment around us on a day-to-day basis.

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