Coronavirus and air pollutionDate: 03 March 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous
A NASA report said nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels over China had dropped dramatically in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
The virus has currently been detected in 59 countries on all continents except Antarctica, with nearly 87,000 cases recorded officially. The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised its assessment of the spread and risk of impact of COVID-19 to “very high at global level”.
The NASA report cites the coronavirus quarantine, Chinese New Year, and a related economic slowdown as reasons for the decline in pollution levels.
Satellite images from January 1-20, 2020 (before the coronavirus quarantine) and February 10-25 (during the quarantine), showed a marked decrease in levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), an important air pollutant known to increase the likelihood of respiratory problems.
As per NASA, the fall in NO2 levels was first apparent near Wuhan, where the quarantine was enforced first to quell the spread of the disease. The quarantine included a shut-down of local businesses as well as transportation to and from the city.
In the past, marked declines in NO2 levels were witnessed during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and in the aftermath of the 2008 global economic crisis. However, both declines were smaller than the current drop.
The report also cited the Lunar New Year celebrations in China as a reason for the decline in the pollutant, as businesses generally remain closed during celebrations that take place in late January and early February.
The data gathered from this year show the reduction rate to be more significant compared to previous years and does not indicate a rebound in NO2 levels after the holiday period, thus pointing to economic slowdown due to quarantine measures as the principal reason for the reduction in pollution.
The data was gathered by pollution monitoring satellites of NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).