coronavirus illinois

Has Less Traffic Improved Air Quality in Chicago Area? The Answer Might Surprise You

For any lasting air quality improvements, more people would need to use public transportation, according to an expert at Northwestern University.

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You may have noticed there’s not as much traffic in and around Chicago as people stay home during the coronavirus pandemic. But does that mean air quality is improving?

The short answer is: It’s too early to tell.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency told NBC 5 there is not enough available data to know for sure just yet.

Scientists said while we have greatly reduced our individual contributions to pollution by driving less, heavy trucks are still on the roads and power plants continue to operate.

Still, they said the Chicago area will see improvements as the weather warms up.

“We’re not currently in a pollution season,” said Anastasia Montgomery, a Ph. D. candidate at Northwestern University who studies how air quality reacts to the climate. "We would expect to see greater changes in air quality as we head towards the summer."

Montgomery said for any lasting air quality improvements, more people would need to use public transportation.

Recent lock downs in parts of Europe and China have resulted in improving air quality.

NASA also released a map that shows pollution decreasing across parts of the northeastern United States. 

A NASA spokesperson said the air quality improvements are associated with fewer vehicles on the road, but not directly attributed to them.

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