Satellites see the effect coronavirus is having on the Earth

Space Science

MYSTERY WIRE — From space, some satellites can see how the coronavirus is affecting the Earth. The virus is causing humans to change their behaviors and daily patterns.

One effect the spread of the virus is having is less pollution. At the end of February, NASA reported how decreases in industrial, transportation, and business activity since the coronavirus outbreak had reduced levels of atmospheric nitrogen dioxide (NO2) over China. But researchers note that a measurable change in one pollutant does not necessarily mean air quality is suddenly healthy across the country.

NASA recently published a collection of images and explanations of the coronavirus affects and non-affects.

Data source: Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI) on ESA’s Sentinel-5 satellite Image credit: Josh Stevens / NASA Earth Observatory

Also within the last month, other news outlets reported unhealthy air pollution in Beijing, which was largely affected by airborne particulate pollution known as PM 2.5. NASA satellites showed a high load of airborne aerosols.

Weak winds, high humidity and a strong thermal inversion had trapped bad air in the city.

South China Morning Post

People in many of China’s major cities have been forced to stay home and public transportation has been shut down. Air travel in and out of China has also been light. Compared to late January 2019, domestic flights within mainland China this year dropped by 60 to 70 percent.

NASA published an analysis of a study in Carbon Brief. Nasa stated key industries in China were operating at much lower-than-normal levels during the quarantine.

Image credit: Carbon Brief

Oil refinery operations in Shandong province, for instance, were at their lowest since 2015. Average coal consumption at power plants also reached a four-year low. As a result, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions were at least 25 percent lower in the two weeks following the Lunar New Year compared to 2019. However, that decrease in CO2 emissions for two weeks would only reduce annual totals by approximately 1 percent.

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