Air Pollution Dropped During Pandemic Lockdowns

As vehicle traffic lightened and industry slowed during the COVID-19 stay-at-home period in 2020, a University of Houston study by the air quality forecasting group led by Yunsoo Choi, associate professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, estimates levels of potentially-dangerous air pollutants simultaneously decreased in major cities across the country.

All but one of the 11 U.S. cities examined experienced reduced levels of the pollutant PM2.5 — tiny particles or droplets in the air that are 2.5 microns or less in diameter. The negative health impacts of increased exposure to the pollutant include cardiovascular diseases, respiratory-related illnesses and similar conditions.

“We hope our study’s findings will provide insight useful to medical researchers and perhaps increase awareness of the need to explore cleaner energy alternatives,” Choi said.

Using deep learning approaches, the researchers estimated and then compared PM2.5 levels from March through May 2020 — months when U.S. stay-at-home orders were tightest — to the same period in 2019. They also turned to Google’s COVID-19 Community Mobility reports, which temporarily reported anonymous data about traffic and destinations.

The biggest air quality improvement was in Washington D.C., which experienced a 21% decrease in pollution levels, followed by New York and Boston. The findings are published in the journal Atmospheric Environment.

Check out the whole article here.

Prof. Yunsoo Choi
Prof. Yunsoo Choi
Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry, Air-Quality Modeling, AI (Deep Learning/Machine Learning), Satellite Remote Sensing

My research interests include Atmospheric Chemistry, Air-Quality Modeling and AI (Deep Learning/ Machine Learning).