Coronavirus pandemic visibly causes pollution levels to drop in South Florida

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MIAMI (WSVN) - With the coronavirus pandemic causing some parts of the world to shut down to combat its spread, pollution levels, including in South Florida, have dropped as a result.

7Skyforce flew over the waters of Biscayne Bay on Friday, and aerial footage showed clearer waters, which allowed cameras to show the bottom of the bay.

“Mother Nature is resilient. She’ll recover,” Ben Kirtman, an Atmospheric Sciences professor at the University of Miami, said. “Ocean clarity will improve. Air quality improves very rapidly.”

With most of South Florida staying at home, the usual bumper-to-bumper traffic is gone, and the region’s streets are nearly empty. Cars are South Florida’s biggest source of air pollution.

“The air quality here is getting better, and worldwide, the air quality is getting better,” Kirtman said.

New NASA satellite data shows in the Northeast, Nitrogen Dioxide levels from fossil fuels have dropped around 30%. From space, the air also appears to be dramatically less polluted over China, as well as Italy.

Rachel Silverstein with Miami Waterkeeper will head out to take water samples as soon as stay at home orders are lifted, but she said the anecdotal evidence is crystal clear.

“It’s basically an experiment that you could never do intentionally,” she said. “It’s very interesting how quickly we seem to see the water rebound and the clarity to improve.”

Clearer water in the Intracoastal and along South Florida’s coast lines makes for a better home for marine life.

Some people have reported extraordinary wildlife sightings. For the first time ever, two endangered small tooth sawfish were seen swimming side by side in Biscayne Bay, and in Miami high-rises, people have reported sightings of rare sea turtles.

“It’s a silver lining in a very dark time,” Silverstein said.

Pope Francis has called COVID-19 “nature’s response” to mankind mostly ignoring the poor health of the planet.

“I think the pope is right,” Kirtman said. “One of the things that I hope comes from this is we learn maybe more teleworking is a good thing.”

Scientists said if people do not learn a lesson and go back to the status quo once the pandemic ends, the pollution will return as fast as it left.

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