Scientists detect cleaner air in NYC but doubt it will outlast coronavirus shutdown

W. 42nd St. is seen devoid of people and traffic on March 26 during the Coronavirus pandemic.
W. 42nd St. is seen devoid of people and traffic on March 26 during the Coronavirus pandemic.

With much of New York City stuck in a miserable lockdown, the air quality outside has vastly improved since the pandemic began here with the diagnosis of a Manhattan lawyer barely one month ago, scientists say.
But there’s a caveat from experts: The bright development in the black cloud of the pandemic is unlikely to last once the health nightmare ends — unless local businesses and residents permanently change their behavior.
Columbia University researchers monitoring pollutant levels in Harlem found 10% drops in carbon dioxide and methane in March, along with a shocking 50% plunge in carbon monoxide. And levels of PM 2.5, the particulate matter that reduces visibility and causes an assortment of health issues, are down about 20% over the last month.
“There’s no doubt reducing the amount of vehicle miles traveled last month had an impact in air quality in the region," said Dan Westervelt, an associate research scientist at Columbia. "There definitely does appear to be a decrease (in pollutants).”
The crisis led to previously unthinkable reductions in the number of cars and trucks coming into Manhattan, along with deep subway and bus service cuts. On Friday, the MTA — after already slashing bus and subway services by 25% — instructed all New Yorkers to curtail their mass transit travel except healthcare workers, first responders and other essential employees.
Ridership on the Port Authority’s PATH trains was down 90% from last year, with reduced service introduced the last weekend in March.
Daily truck traffic over the George Washington Bridge, the Lincoln Tunnel and the Holland Tunnel was off by 20%, while automobile traffic on the same routes was down by a robust 55%, according to the bi-state agency.
And the congestion levels during the city’s Friday night rush hour were drastically lower than last year at this time, according to the data tracking company TomTom. On March 3, 2019, heavy traffic added 38 minutes to a typical one-hour trip. One year later, the extra travel time was less than four minutes.
In Harrison, N.J., a PATH train hub with a stop 22 minutes from the World Trade Center, the typically jam-packed parking lots near the station were virtually vacant last week — a vast and lonely expanse of concrete, pavement and empty spots once filled with rows and rows of vehicles. One lot with spaces for 150 cars held just six.
A nearby four-story parking deck held only a few dozen cars as most commuters worked from home, if they were lucky enough to still have jobs.
Park Avenue near Grand Central Station is seen devoid of traffic early in New York on Tuesday, March 31, 2020.
Park Avenue near Grand Central Station is seen devoid of traffic early in New York on Tuesday, March 31, 2020.(Luiz C. Ribeiro/New York Daily News/TNS)
But Jacqueline Klopp, co-director of the Center for Sustainable Urban Development at Columbia, said she didn’t expect an air quality “silver lining” to emerge from the crisis.

“Those are not the words I would use,” she said in a piece posted on the university website. “A lot of money is going to be put into getting the economy going again, and if we just put it back into the same polluting industries, people will continue dying.”

The Environmental Protection Agency suspended enforcement of its civil environmental regulations last week in reaction to the pandemic.\

“EPA is committed to protecting human health and the environment, but recognizes challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a statement.

Westervelt remained optimistic that some environmentally-positive changes could emerge from the quarantining that has left most people idling in their homes for weeks already.

“The good news is there is a chance some lessons are learned from the whole thing,” he said. “Like telecommuting, working from home. If businesses and commercial entities see work at home didn’t go too badly, it’s possible for a lasting impact.”

1 comment:

  1. I'm sure the Chemtrails never stooped though!


Powered by Blogger.