At least one good thing came from COVID-19—the air quality in D.C. has drastically improved!

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments recently released a report stating there were three main reasons why smog levels in D.C. this summer were the best in several decades. 

smog chart

Graph courtesy of Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. 

For starters, COVID-19 stay-at-home orders meant less pollution from cars, which meant less oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) were escaping into the atmosphere. NOx pollution comes mostly from vehicle emissions, while VOC pollution comes from vehicle exhaust as well as industry and household chemicals.

pollution chart

Graphic courtesy of the Environmental Protection Angecy. 

The report also credited the better air quality to cooler weather and wetter conditions this summer and many years of efforts to reduce pollution, such as stricter vehicle efficiency standards, limits on pollution from power plants. and renewable energy programs.

By looking at these images from NASA, you can see the difference in air quality from March 2019 to March 2020 in the Northeast I-95 corridor . 

NASA map of air quality

Photos courtesy of NASA.

D.C.’s air quality is close to meeting air quality standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. So, if the air quality keeps on track and continues to improve, there will be more summers like 2020 in the future!

Have you noticed a difference in air quality this summer or other environmental improvements that arose from COVID-19? If so, let us know in the comments below!