As motor vehicles stay in their driveways, instead of venturing out onto the highways and byways of Staten Island, NYC, and beyond, the world’s air quality is quickly improving.
Last week at Clove Lakes Park, I could swear that the air seemed cleaner, more like the air quality upstate than the usual Staten Island thick and soupy.
Cars are off the streets. Buses are running on modified light schedules. The U.S. Census Bureau tells us that there are about 1.4 million cars in New York City. Even so, only 27% drive to work as part of their daily commute.
Of course, Staten Island’s mid-island and South Shore, a transit desert, nearly 64% drive to work each day.
Staten Island and Brooklyn are actually almost the same size; compare the transit options and you’ll quickly see we’re undeserved.
Presently, with only workers deemed “essential” even venturing to work, and some of those even working from home, the roads are mostly devoid of the usual “Shaolin” traffic scene.
So is it true that all these cars sitting in driveways are actually improving the air, or does air just seem that much crisper because I’ve spent so many days and nights stuck in the house?
It turns out, it’s a provable fact that the air is clearer. So there’s at least one good thing to come of the COVID-19 crisis, as devastating as it may be in a plethora of other ways.
Columbia University’s Earth Institute, as well as the Lamond-Doherty Earth Observatory, keep tabs on NYC’s air quality.
Instrumentation that measures pollutants in the air recorded a ten percent drop in carbon dioxide and methane, and a fifty percent drop in carbon monoxide.
And, those figures are not even current; that is what was observed as of March 13th; by now, it’s likely an even more significant improvement.
Even carbon dioxide levels are down, from 500 parts-per-million to closer to 400, as of a month ago. That’s got to be cause for people concerned about global warming and climate change.
Carbon monoxide went from 350 part-per-billion, with levels sometimes measuring as high as 800, to less that half the average, at only 160 ppb. Incredible? Definitely.
There has also been a fifty percent drop in nitric acid in the NYC’s air.
And, importantly, multiple air quality monitoring stations corroborate this data; it’s not just a fluke resulting from failing equipment.
This what we can look forward to once cars shift to electric power, and the green revolution sets in.
Researchers at the Mailman School of Public Health have been tracking the level of fine particulate matter floating in the air at street level.
Believe it or not, this common soot can cause pulmonary and respiratory disease.
Poor air quality takes the lives of an estimated seven million people annually, worldwide.
And of course, there are international cities like New Delhi that make NYC’s air seem pristine, but air quality is improving, worldwide.
Earth Institute’s Center for Sustainable Urban Development co-director Jacqueline Klopp had this to say about the change in air quality, “‘[It’s] a really important learning moment.”
Right now, it’s all a political battle, but at some point, it will be purely about science. We’re just getting a (sweet) taste of what the air will be like once pollution is curbed.
Satellite data shows that air quality is improving allover Europe due to the COVID-19 shutdown. Paris, Madrid, Milan,and Rome all experienced a halving of the usual amount of nitrogen dioxide.
The data was provided by NASA and the European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, with something called the Tropomi instrument.
Tropomi is short for TROPOsheric Monitoring Instrument, a spectrometer that examines ultraviolet (UV), visible (VIS), near (NIR) and short-wavelength infrared (SWIR) light waves.
In doing so, levels of ozone, methane, formaldehyde, aerosol, carbon monoxide, NO2 and SO2 over Europe are kept track of.
The Sentinel-5P satellite first showed something phenomenal happening in the air over China, as the sprawling East Asian country shut down its economy back in the beginning of 2020.