Pollution

COVID-19: NASA maps show decline in pollution amid slowdown

Reduction in NO2 pollution was first seen near Wuhan, but eventually spread across the country, according to scientists

 
By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Monday 02 March 2020
China pollution decreases amid coronavirus outbreak. Source: NASA Earth Observatory

Pollution levels in China declined dramatically between January and February 2020, according to latest maps released by United State’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

According to the space agency, the decline was partially because of economic slowdown in the east Asian country following a novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. 

The NASA monitoring satellites in the maps showed a significant decrease in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels between January 1-20, 2020 (before the quarantine) and February 10-25, 2020 (after the quarantine).

NO2 levels decreased between January 1-20, 2020 and February 10-25, 2020. Source: NASA Earth Observatory

Nitrogen dioxide is a noxious gas emitted from motor vehicles, power plants, industrial facilities, etc.

Scientists said reduction in NO2 pollution was first seen near Wuhan, but eventually spread across the country, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory.

Globally, 87,137 cases of the virus have been reported. By 29 February, 2020, China alone reported 79,968 cases and 2,873 deaths. 

In India, one positive case of COVID-19 has been detected in New Delhi, and one has been detected in Telangana. Earlier, three cases of COVID-19 were reported from Kerala. No deaths have been reported from India so far. 

The maps below showed NO2 values over three periods in 2020 — January 1-20 (before Lunar New Year), January 28-February 9 (around New Year celebrations), and February 10-25 (after the celebrations). The 2020 values were compared to the same periods in 2019. Unlike in 2019, levels in 2020 did not rise after Chinese New Year, the maps showed.

Unlike in 2019, levels in 2020 did not rise after Chinese New Year. Source: NASA Earth Observatory

Unlike in 2019, levels in 2020 did not rise after Chinese New Year. Source: NASA Earth Observatory

A report by climate watch website Carbon Brief had earlier reported that COVID-19 may have shaved off more than 100 tonnes of CO2 in early February 2020.

According to the report, measures taken to control the epidemic resulted in reductions of 15-40 per cent in output across key industrial sectors.

According to scientists, the drop in NO2 in 2020 also coincided with Lunar New Year celebrations in China. According to past studies, air pollution decreased between last week of January and early February as businesses and factories remained closed during this time.  

According to Fei Liu, air quality researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, “This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event.”

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