Questions for “COVID-19 cut pollution in 2020, warming the atmosphere”

a thick brown haze of smog hangs over the LA skyline

The haze seen here hanging over Los Angeles, Calif., is due to tiny aerosols hanging in the air. Early last year, COVID-19 lockdowns briefly reduced air pollution in industrial cities. That, in turn, cut the light-colored, planet-cooling airborne particles. This briefly warmed some regions by as much as 0.37 degree Celsius (0.67 degree Fahrenheit).

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To accompany “COVID-19 cut pollution in 2020, warming the atmosphere


Before Reading:

1.  Overall, how do you think urban pollution changed, if at all, during the global COVID-19 pandemic?

2.  In terms of the environment only (not human health), what changes do you think the pandemic created?

During Reading:

1.  According to the authors of the new study, what happened during pandemic lockdowns and what role did that appear to have on climate?

2.  What are aerosols? List as many different examples of them as you can.

3.  What role did aerosol changes during pandemic lockdowns have on rain clouds? Why and how might this be expected to affect temperatures?

4.  How big a warming did some areas of the globe see as a result of pandemic-related changes in aerosols? Where were temperature changes least likely to be seen?

5.  Gavin Schmidt said that globally, the COVID-lockdown warming changes being reported were not too important, yet still were “noticeable.” What example did he give of how people might have noticed the effects?

6.  What evidence was mentioned in the article that would support why industrialization might affect whether a region would have experienced excess pandemic-linked warming in 2020?

After Reading:

1.  From what you learned about the role of aerosols and climate, what changes other than a pandemic might also lead to greater or lesser amounts of pollutant aerosols? List those changes, then describe for each whether the impact on aerosols would likely be better or worse in terms of the climate. Also, list how widely you would expect the effects of each aerosol change to be (and why). Draw on what you learned in this story to support your assessments.