Coronavirus and US air quality

Many friends report an astounding improvement in air quality across the country over the past few weeks, an unexpected silver lining to coronavirus lockdown. They can breathe better and see distant mountains previously obscured by haze. The Washington Post, The Guardian, and NPR have covered the phenomenon. “Anyone walking, biking or driving outdoors can see the blue skies,” says The Mercury News. They were unclear as to whether the blue skies could be seen by those confined with only window views.

AirNow, developed by the EPA, makes its archives available online. Here is what the first Monday in April has looked like for the previous five years. 2020 is at the bottom.

  1. #1 by False Progress on April 11, 2020 - 9:48 pm

    We need is a steady-state aka zero-growth economy to get a permanent semblance of this. Less consumption of everything helps.

    And we don’t need more ugly wind turbines spoiling horizons while quasi-environmentalists crow about how “clean” they are.

  2. #2 by Bruce Vojak on April 12, 2020 - 12:55 pm

    Always enjoy your posts, Bill, and this one is no exception. I shared it with a few others, and received this from a friend in Lincoln, NE:

    “Kansas has been burning grass fields in the Flint Hills and filling Eastern Nebraska with smoke! Been hazy for a couple weeks!”

    Not at all suggesting that this accounts for everything, but I will say that your “now, isn’t this interesting?” Multidisciplinarian post provided great stimulus to consider what all might be going on!

    All the best,


    Sent from my iPad

  3. #3 by richard brakeman on April 13, 2020 - 11:20 am

    Not a lick of difference every year on the same day of the week in the same position in the season. But the placebo is so good as it nurtures the illusion that I’m green and good.

    • #4 by False Progress on April 15, 2020 - 12:12 am

      “Not a lick of difference every year on the same day of the week in the same position in the season.”

      Are you serious with that claim? What’s your source? Cleaner air (and less noise) is obvious in my PNW location and other reports aren’t just anecdotal. Scientists are noticing measurable differences, especially in NO2 levels. It’s common sense, with fewer drivers and various industries curtailed.

      One thing millions of people can do at any time is to stop idling unnecessarily and arrogantly. But Peak Shale will force that sooner than the average wastrel realizes. The lingering low price of oil is completely unrealistic in a future context. Shale fracking is the main thing holding up the illusion that crude oil hasn’t already plateaued.

      • #5 by Rick Brakeman on April 15, 2020 - 2:52 am

        My source is what I seen in each if the four picture graphs, all depicting 98.6 pct (approximately) green air quality.

        Do note that my eye is specially untrained – THE untrained eye – so if one sees a diff shade of green in the pictures they might have an advantage over me.

        • #6 by False Progress on April 15, 2020 - 4:45 pm

          You’re right, but those particular maps give limited samples on single days, oddly chosen, especially since 2020 has a much wider yellow zone (agricultural stubble burning?). It needs to be averaged over more days per site.

          I’m going from broader reports like below, and the common sense of fewer vehicle emitters generating less pollution.

 (pollution drops are variable but obvious)

          • #7 by Rick Brakeman on April 15, 2020 - 5:36 pm

            As to Bill’s article and the maps, my analysis stands. Another day I will solve mysteries and problems.

  4. #8 by Midwesterner on August 9, 2020 - 2:06 am

    Its not entirely honest given the actual dates/times.

    Try to recreate the older maps on airnow – they arent what he posted. In one case, the date didnt even have the majority of ‘layers’ airnow can show available, lol.

    If you read a blog emphasizing knowing an asserted statements methodology and data limitations yet gleefully swallow the same blogs blind assertions, maybe stop.

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