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With more people staying home, Washington skies are cleaner

Published on April 14, 2020

View of downtown Seattle, July 2017.
View of downtown Seattle, July 2017. Image Credit: Ted Drake. CC BY-ND 2.0

Since the coronavirus pandemic sent Washingtonians indoors to help flatten the curve of infection, Seattleites who open a window or venture outside for socially distanced nature therapy swear something’s different in the air.

“It’s for sure much cleaner,” says lifelong Seattle resident Cathryn Stenson, who has been walking through nearby parks more than normal to take advantage of the conditions. “I can see the Tiger Mountain radio towers from my apartment in Ravenna, and they’ve never looked this real and clear on stagnant days before.”

Stenson isn’t imagining it: People worldwide are starting to make observations of the unintended environmental impacts of the pandemic, which has infected more than a million people globally and taken more than 53,000 lives. But this positive change in global air quality is actually borne out by the data.

“I think many of us who work in air pollution had a sense that there would be potentially some changes,” says Dr. Elena Austin, an assistant professor in the University of Washington’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences. “And that’s because we already know that the important sources, particularly for our area, are traffic-related. So if traffic is decreasing, potentially there would be a decrease in the ambient air quality as well.”


Continue reading at Crosscut.

Originally written by Hannah Weinberger for Crosscut.
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