StoryMap: The pandemic and air quality

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered many aspects of our lives, disrupting everything from our daily commute to the global economy. In the early days of the pandemic in particular, millions of people were urged to stay home to curb the spread of the disease. With such a dramatic change in human activity, what changes did we see in the environment? 

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Note the spikes that adorn the outer surface of the virus, which impart the look of a corona surrounding the virion, when viewed electron microscopically. A novel coronavirus, named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019. The illness
This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Note the spikes that adorn the outer surface of the virus, which impart the look of a corona surrounding the virion, when viewed electron microscopically. A novel coronavirus, named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019. The illness caused by this virus has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). For official, up-to-date information about the virus and how to prevent its spread, please visit the CDC's website, www.cdc.gov (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/CDC.gov)

In this new StoryMap, NOAA’s Science On a Sphere team takes a deep dive into data and visualizations from the first six months of 2020 to examine the effect that COVID-19 restrictions had on air quality. These interdisciplinary datasets from NOAA, NASA, the World Health Organization, and other organizations come together to give us a new way to visualize these experiences that were felt around the world. 

More ways to explore the data

In the classroom: If you’re using this story map in the classroom, capture your students’ understanding by answering the blue questions that appear in the story map on this fillable pdf worksheet. This was designed for students in grades 7-12.

Anywhere on a virtual sphere: The story map can also be viewed on a virtual sphere in SOS Explorer, which is also available as a free mobile application. Find it in the Apple App and Google Play Stores.

Visit a sphere: If you are interested in checking out a Science On a Sphere for yourself, see the SOS locations near you! If you are an educator and have Science On a Sphere at your school or museum, this story map is available as a Live Program playlist. See the SOS website for more information on using a Live Program with your iPad Remote.