- Saturday, 29 February 2020
The coronavirus (which we're supposed to be calling Covid-19 these days) is causing the world to panic and experience a great deal of anxiety and inconvenience. However, amazing satellite pictures from NASA suggest that it may actually have done some accidental good. OK, so it's not exactly great, but it is something. You see, because China has effectively been on lockdown for weeks now, the pollution that was previously at massively dangerous levels has now subsided dramatically. The two pictures are like night and day - one has large amounts of ominous yellow pollution, the other is a nice calming blue.
Basically, NASA and the European space Agency have been using pollution monitoring satellites to track how much nitrogen dioxide there is in the atmosphere over the past two months. The first shot shows the first few weeks of January, where there is a huge amount of gas sitting above Beijing and Shanghai. Then, a matter of weeks later into February, we can see the effects of the quarantine that has been put in place - there's basically no nitrogen dioxide in the air at all.
Nitrogen dioxide is a noxious gas that is kicked out by cars, power stations, and many types of factories and industrial facilities. It ain't great for your lungs, or the environment, for that matter. It's a by-product of burning fossil fuels, and can cause people's airways to become inflamed, and increase the likelihood of asthma attacks. Fei Liu, an air quality researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre, said: "This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event."
That being said, it's worth pointing out that there are other factors, too. The drop in nitrogen dioxide probably also has something to do with the fact that it's just been the Lunar New Year festival, during which China shuts down for the last week of January and into February.
That festival was extended this year in an attempt to stop the spread of Covid-19. Furthermore, as the quarantine has come into effect, loads of the businesses haven't reopened just yet, so there's drastically less gas being pumped into the atmosphere. As well as that, NASA scientist Barry Lefer added that new environmental rules brought in by China in recent years have also contributed to the drop in nitrogen dioxide.
Featured Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory