Travel and Air Pollution During Covid-19
- The sudden drop in travel during COVID-19 is causing major improvements in short-term air quality. We track these changing travel patterns using daily mobility data from Descartes Labs.
- In March and April, all 50 states saw mobility drop by more than half at some point, relative to a pre-pandemic levels. In 26 states, this maximum decrease was more than 90%.
- As travel plummeted, March NO2 levels fell about 30% in the Northeast and 40% in the Southeast, relative to a 2015-2019 baseline. (Stay tuned for other regional before-and-after maps as NASA releases them). NO2 is one of the smog-forming NOx pollutants, and more than half of their emissions come from transportation.
- Many of these changes won’t last, as travel rebounds and hotter, sunnier days lead to more smog. But today’s cleaner skies show what lower emissions can do for our health and quality of life.