A new study shows that cleaner air due to pandemic isolation has raised our planet’s temperature in 2020, especially in places like the eastern United States, Russia, and China.
Lockdown and a slowdown in human activity have reduced air pollution by soot and sulfates, but these particles, among other things, also reflect solar heat and help cool the Earth’s atmosphere briefly. For a short time, temperatures were 0.3 to 37 degrees Celsius higher in some places in the eastern U.S., Russia and China because of the lull in the lockdown. The results are published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Overall, the planet got about 0.03 degrees Celsius warmer over the year because there were fewer cooling aerosols in the air, which, unlike carbon dioxide, lower the temperature. “Cleaning the air can actually warm the planet because this pollution (soot and sulfates) leads to a cooling that climate scientists have long known,” said Andrew Gettelman, lead author of the study from the National Center for Atmospheric Research.