Air quality post-pandemic didn't improve as previously suspected
Roy Harrison, a researcher and professor at the University of Birmingham, UK, recently conducted a study to review the reductions in PM 2.5 and NO2 levels that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns over 11 cities. Harrison applied machine learning techniques to remove the effects of weather on the gaseous concentrations to see how the air quality had truly changed due to the lockdowns.
According to Inrix, a traffic analytic firm, traffic to downtown areas of the US and UK were down as much as 65%, taking private cars and vehicles off the roadways for long periods of time in 2020.
Larger vehicles like semi-trucks still added to emissions, and also contribute to larger pollution issues. With more large trucks on the roads due to toilet paper shortages and pandemic supplies, the reduction in air quality wasn’t as substantial.
While air quality improved for the first few months after lockdowns, it didn’t last long as factories and plants reopened, and cars were back on the roads.