ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) -- Coronavirus closures are affecting the air quality here in Georgia, even showing a big drop in air pollution levels.

You might be shocked when you check out this jaw-dropping image CBS46 obtained from NASA.

You see all of those red and purple blobs meaning high pollution, that's a satellite image of the pollutant nitrogen dioxide. It's of a five year average period: March 15th through April 15, ending in 2019.

But, check out how clear the image looks in the same period for 2020 during the current lock-down.

"I don't necessarily see this decrease in pollution as a positive thing because this decrease really represents heartache on the ground," said NASA scientist and Georgia Tech grad Dr. Bryan Duncan.

The lockdown might be bad for Georgia’s economy, but he says it’s good for the lungs.

"A decrease in air pollution of 40 percent of just this one pollutant, nitrogen dioxide, is a very positive thing because breathing in nitrogen dioxide actually diminishes your lung capacity," Duncan said.

The American Lung Association put out a “State of the Air Report Card” showing average to below average marks for the ozone for Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, and Gwinnett counties.

But all four counties received a “B” for 24 hour particle pollution and passing grades for annual particle pollution.

“Harvard University put a study out maybe just a week or two ago that ties the areas with higher levels of air pollution to being the areas that are also experiencing higher fatalities from coronavirus,” said Georgia Conservation Voters executive director Brionte McCorkle.

Her group has been pushing for electric cars and environmentally friendly transportation options.

“We certainly don’t want to take a victory lap because the economy is on pause it’s not anything to be excited about. But what it does do is get us to what future that environmentalists have been pushing for, sustainable buildings, green buildings."

Dr. Duncan tells CBS46 if things went back to the way they were before the pandemic, it would only take a matter of days for the air to be polluted again.

Copyright 2020 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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