Coronavirus quarantine cleans China’s air

Satellite imagery of nitrogen dioxide levels over China. (NASA Earth Observatory)

Air pollution in China dropped dramatically over the course of February as the country responded to the coronavirus outbreak by shutting down infrastructure, satellite imagery from NASA and the European Space Agency shows.

China responded to the outbreak of coronavirus, official known as COVID-19, in the country with a series of quarantines and lockdowns. This consequently limited the amount of energy the country has needed and has led to a corresponding fall in nitrogen levels as it burns less coal, and transport levels decreased. The city of Wuhan, ground zero for the outbreak, with a population of 11 million, has been under quarantine since January 23 as authorities work to try to prevent the spread of the deadly disease.

The map shows the concentration of nitrogen dioxide – gas produced by motor vehicles, power plants, and industrial facilities – in China.

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

A drop in nitrogen dioxide levels is normally associated with the Lunar New Year celebrations in China and across Asia. However, in 2020 the levels have not risen after the celebrations concluded as they normally do.

“This year, the reduction rate is more significant than in past years and it has lasted longer,” Liu said. “I am not surprised because many cities nationwide have taken measures to minimize spread of the virus.”

The coronavirus epidemic has so far infected over 95,000 people with over 3,300 dead. Although infections have so far slowed dramatically in China, hotspots in Iran, Italy, and South Korea remain.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 10:02 - GMT 07:02
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