A Bowlful of Cherries

Celebrating Matty and Noah

But the Air Was Clean

Last summer’s power outage in the U.S. Northeast was an economic disaster, with more than 100 power plants shut down. There was one happy consequence: Almost overnight, the air became cleaner. On 15 August 2003, 24 hours into the blackout, researchers monitoring air quality with small planes sent one flying over a rural town in central Pennsylvania, downwind of shutdown power plants. The data from PA was compared with same-day data from Northern Virginia and western Maryland, outside the blackout area, and with data from central Pennsylvania from a day in 2002 when wind and temperature conditions were similar.

What the researchers found astounded them: Visibility had increased by some 20 miles, as light-scattering particles were reduced by 70 percent. Sulfur dioxide levels were reduced by 90 percent, and ozone was down by about 50 percent. Dr. Lackson Marufu said the group had expected to find cleaner air with no power plants going, since power plants are a major contributor to smog. The surprise “was the extent that they influenced the regional air quality.”

Am I advocating wholesale shutdowns of power plants? Nah. I like my A/C, too. But it is time for power companies in the Midwest to stop pretending they have little to no impact on air quality.

Written by Michael

24 Jun 2004 at 905am

Posted in Misc.

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