According to satellite photos from NASA, the coronavirus outbreak in China had one surprising effect: it reduced air pollution.
NASA used pollution monitoring satellites to measure the NO2 presence in the air. This gas enters the air from the fuel burning from cars, buses, trucks, and power plants.
In the period of January 1st to 20th and February 10th to 25th, the researchers noted a major reduction in the pollution in the air over Wuhan and rest of China, mostly because of the economic slowdown due to the virus.
Density of NO2 Significantly Drops with Restrictive Measures in China
The reduction of NO2 began in Wuhan and then spread throughout the country, claims NASA.
According to air quality researcher from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Fei Liu, this is the first time she has seen this dramatic reduction over a big area during a specific situation.
Usually, the NO2 levels in China are lower around this year since a lot of factories and businesses close for the Lunar New Year celebrations.
According to NASA maps, the levels dropped during the festival period in 2019 and then increased again after the businesses resumed with their work.
But, in 2020, the levels from January to February were 10 to 30 percent lower than the average and they didn’t increase towards the end of February.
Experts believe this is a result of the quarantine that was implemented to cease the spread of the virus.
Lockdown in China since Late January
Millions of people in China were in lockdown as of late January and a lot of factories had to be closed down because of the outbreak.
The capital of Hubei, Wuhan, where the virus started, had strict guidelines for people leaving their homes and had to be checked for their temperatures in grocery stores.
According to senior fellow at Yale University, Stephen Roach, the influence of travel restrictions and quarantines has brought the economy of China to a standstill.
And, there have been reduction in the coal consumption and traffic due to transportation.
In addition to China, NO2 emissions have significantly dropped in the north of Italy that is also a result of the whole country’s lockdown that’s minimized the traffic and industry, explains the European Space Agency or ESA.