ALL NEWS

Spring air quality in Salt Lake is better than normal during the pandemic

May 5, 2020, 8:31 PM
air quality...
Smog covers Salt Lake City as an inversion lingers. (Qiling Wang, Deseret News)
(Qiling Wang, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY– Air quality along the Wasatch Front is better during this time of year since implementing social distancing restrictions in March.

Scientists at the University of Utah and Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) were curious about how physical distancing measures would impact Utah’s air quality. The results are in; Utah’s air has improved since Utahns started staying home. 

In a press release on Tuesday, both agencies stated air quality in Salt Lake is normally good during the spring season, “but the reduction in emissions from COVID-19 social distancing measures have made air quality even better than usual.”

One of the reasons for the drop in smog is due to the lack of cars on the road. 

“These measurements, taken together, paint a consistent picture of cleaner air from reduced emissions, especially from reduced traffic,” said Logan Mitchell, research assistant professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Utah. “It shows how fast the air quality improves after a reduction in emissions.

However, as Utah continues to reopen businesses, the pollution will come back just as fast.  

According to Mitchell, data “suggests as the economy starts to recover and emissions ramp up, we’re going to see our air quality get worse again.” 

Measuring Utah’s pollution 

The U and DEQ scientists combined ground-based air quality and greenhouse gas emissions with satellite observations to collect the pollution measurements. 

Measurements of air pollutants came from a monitoring station at Hawthorne Elementary in Salt Lake City.  The additional measurements of carbon dioxide are from monitoring stations in Sugarhouse, at the U, and in the southwest Salt Lake Valley. 

Their research started on March 15, when physical distance measures were enforced throughout the state. Within the last half of March, Utah’s levels of nitric oxide, particulate matter, and carbon dioxide reduced significantly. 

Levels of nitric oxide were 57% lower and nitrogen dioxide was 36% lower than the average March. The lack of nitric oxide is specifically due to fewer cars on the road, especially during rush hours. 

Roughly, the Sugarhouse monitoring station is down 19% and the U monitoring station is 33% lower than average. 

Particle levels are down 59%, particularly at night. However, the U and DEQ state it’s unclear if the decrease is “due to reduced overall particulate matter emissions. Or reduced formation of particulate matter through atmospheric chemistry.” 

Moving forward on air quality 

The research team plans to continue monitoring the pandemic’s impact on pollution levels in the Salt Lake Valley. It’s a chance scientists refuse to pass up. 

“For environmental scientists, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study the air quality impacts of fewer cars on the road,” said Bryce Bird, director of the Utah DEQ’s Division of Air Quality.

“We are looking forward to further analyzing the data our monitors collected during this period when residents were teleworking and driving less. Dr. Mitchell’s initial analysis shows a lot of promise and, hopefully, the final results will help inform behavior and policy in the coming years,” Bird continued. 

It’s important to note the findings collected by the U and DEQ have not been peer-reviewed. 

For the full report, click here
Find current air quality conditions from the Utah DEQ here and measurements from stationary and mobile air quality monitors through the University of Utah here.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

The US Senate has passed a bill protecting same-sex and interracial marriage. It now returns to the...
Ali Zaslav and Ted Barrett

Senate passes bill to protect same-sex and interracial marriage in landmark vote

The bill does not set a national requirement that all states must legalize same-sex marriage. Instead, it requires states to recognize another state's legal marriage.
18 hours ago
The Utah Highway Patrol says that if you get into an accident while driving in snow, move the car t...
Simone Seikaly

What to do after a fender bender in snowy weather?

The Utah Highway Patrol said that, in all cases, safety is the main priority. If it's safe to do so, move your car to a shoulder or off-ramp.
18 hours ago
FILE: Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes appears on a video screen above members of the Select Com...
LINDSAY WHITEHURST, ALANNA DURKIN RICHER and MICHAEL KUNZELMAN

Oath Keepers boss guilty of seditious conspiracy in 1/6 case

A Washington, D.C., jury found Rhodes guilty of sedition after three days of deliberations in the the nearly two-month-long trial
18 hours ago
Utah's Morning News host Tim Hughes discusses how to talk turkey and other requirements you'll need...
Tim Hughes

KSL Outdoors: Talking turkey (and knowing when not to)

You know about the gobble. But when to use it? And what about the purr, or tree call? Using any at the wrong time will doom your turkey hunt.
18 hours ago
The USA has beaten Iran at the World Cup and advances into the Knockout Round....
Matias Grez

USMNT advances to World Cup knockout stage with victory over Iran

Christian Pulisic's first-half goal was all that separated the two sides as the USMNT reached the round of 16 for the first time since 2014.
18 hours ago
homeless shelters and Homelessness in Utah...
Alejandro Lucero

Utah official says better coordination could help with homelessness

Homelessness continues to grow in big cities across the U.S., and Salt Lake City is not an enigma. Could focusing on mental health help curb the trend?
18 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
Spring air quality in Salt Lake is better than normal during the pandemic