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Inadvertently, COVID-19 cleans Jacksonville’s air

Will it also stop global warming?

Red and orange is bad in this image. It shows the average air pollution before the COVID-19 lockdown.
Red and orange is bad in this image. It shows the average air pollution before the COVID-19 lockdown. (nasa)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Take a deep breath and enjoy the cleaner air.

Toxic air pollution has been cut nearly in half around Jacksonville in response to COVID-19 impacts on reduced traffic.

NASA released images showing a sharp drop in nitrogen dioxide (NO²) levels as measured from the agency’s Aura satellite throughout the Southeast.

Lower emissions due has dropped the nitrogen dioxide levels in the southeast resulting in less ozone at the ground and cleaner air.
Lower emissions due has dropped the nitrogen dioxide levels in the southeast resulting in less ozone at the ground and cleaner air. (nasa)

Records by the Ozone Monitoring Instrument onboard the satellite show atmospheric levels of nitrogen dioxide dropped around 1.3 10٨15 molecules cm² a decrease compared to an averaged over 10 years ending in 2016 of 3.54 10٨15 molecules cm².

In contrast to the worst levels being in New York at 15.95, our city is much cleaner.

The recent decrease in NO² is much sharper than the long term decrease Jacksonville has witnessed in NO² pollution levels since 2005.

Atmospheric levels of nitrogen dioxide NO² have decreased over the U.S. due to a combination of environmental policies and technological change.

Yet the recent slump is welcome because NO² contributes to the formation of unhealthy levels of surface ozone, a pollutant that has been long known to damage lung tissue when inhaled.

This long term change is good for Jacksonville showing less NO2 and a steady drop in air pollution over the years.
This long term change is good for Jacksonville showing less NO2 and a steady drop in air pollution over the years. (wjxt)

Nitrogen dioxide is primarily generated during fossil fuel combustion, so thermal power plants and automobiles are the dominant sources.

Those also contribute to Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO²), the primary gas responsible for warming the planet.

Will COVID-19 lockdown stop global warming?

According to a report released Thursday by the International Energy Agency, worldwide emissions of carbon dioxide are forecast to drop about 8% in 2020, a record annual decline that’s due to the massive plunge in fossil fuel use.

The pandemic is unlikely to save the planet from heating up.

Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at the Breakthrough Institute, tweeted Thursday that "despite the largest drop in global CO2 emissions ever recorded, the crisis will have minimal effects on CO2 concentrations and warming, which are based much more on the total (cumulative) emissions that have ever occurred than our emissions in a single year.


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