Satellite animation shows pollution clearing over China during coronavirus outbreak

James Marshall
March 23, 2020

"It now provides the most accurate measurements of nitrogen dioxide and other trace gases from space", Josef Aschbacher, ESA's director of Earth observation programs, said in a statement.

The initial drop shown in the animation, which covers December 20 last year to March 16, coincided with Lunar New Year celebrations, when emissions usually fall, but lasted longer than usual as authorities moved to contain the virus.

As the coronavirus epidemic eases in China, many provinces have downgraded their emergency response levels. Toward the end of March, you can see the emissions increase again, but there is a distinct and significant drop in late January.

Josef Aschbacher, ESA's director of earth observation programs, said in a statement: "Satellites offer a unique vantage point to monitor the health of our planet". It now provides the most accurate measurements of nitrogen dioxide and other trace gases from space.

Claus Zehner, ESA's Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission manager, comments, "We can certainly attribute a part of the nitrogen dioxide emission reduction to the impact of the coronavirus".

It is not just Italy that is producing fewer emissions - research conducted by Finland's Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air also showed Carbon dioxide emissions in China fell by a quarter (200 million tons) between the beginning of February and 1 March.

It is still uncertain how quickly emission in China could return to pre-coronavirus levels, and to what extent COVID-19 has actually had on the reduction of pollutants in the region.

"The Copernicus program is a flawless example of how space serves all European citizens by combining the political strength of the EU with the technical excellence of ESA", he added.

"Although there could be slight variations in the data due to cloud cover and changing weather, we are very confident that the reduction in emissions that we can see coincides with the lockdown in Italy causing less traffic and industrial activities", he said.

According to Zehner, the ESA will conduct a detailed scientific analysis of the satellite data in the coming weeks and months.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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