Air Quality in Charlotte Metro Showing Improvement During COVID-19 Pandemic

CHARLOTTE, NC – Traffic in the Charlotte metro area is beginning to pick back up. But for Most of April, travel on the roads came to a near halt. 

“We’ve seen substantial drops in traffic,” said Kevin Lacy, a North Carolina Department of Transportation Traffic Engineer. 

He says there has been a more than 30% drop in highway traffic in the Charlotte region. 

“We have not seen this type of long term widespread reduction in travel,” said Lacy.

According to Mecklenburg county data, cars and trucks account for about 40% of the county’s air pollution. 

“We are seeing some hints that air quality has improved,” said Brian Magi.

He is an associate professor of atmospheric sciences at UNC Charlotte. 

“When we have better air quality in our cities and our towns all around North Carolina, we have a healthier overall population,” said Magi.

According to Mecklenburg county data, readings of ozone in the Charlotte metro hit an all-time low in April 2020. The maximum high amount dropped by about half from the previous year. 

Ozone readings have been trending lower since about 2000. 

“We don’t think this is going to be something that is sustained for the long term,” said Magi.

While Magi says the pollution levels will likely increase as traffic does, He hopes scientists like himself will be able to gain a better understanding of the impact the virus has had on air pollution and what that could mean for the future. 

“When we look at the world around us, we want to see how it is that we have an effect,” said Magi.