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Record-Breaking Wildfires Made North American Air Worse in 2020

Coronavirus lockdowns cleared the air in every region of the world except North America 

Last year, the U.S. West suffered wildfires that charred millions of acres, left dozens of people dead and ravaged air quality from Los Angeles to Seattle.

Last year, the U.S. West suffered wildfires that charred millions of acres, left dozens of people dead and ravaged air quality from Los Angeles to Seattle.

Photographer: David Odisho/Bloomberg
Updated on

The devastating wildfires that torched a record 4.3 million acres in the U.S. in 2020 made North America the only region in the world where air quality was worse than during the previous year. 

Most of the world's major cities had better air last year than in 2019, mainly thanks to coronavirus lockdowns that cleared skies for weeks or months, according to the annual report by air quality platform IQAir. Though India’s New Delhi was the most-polluted capital city, its pollution levels nevertheless fell 16% from the previous year.