United States space agency NASA has released satellite images which show a substantial decrease in air pollution levels over China, as a result of the Coronavirus in the country.
In an effort to contain the spread of the Coronavirus, a reported 16 cities, with a total of 57 around a million people, all in China’s Hubei province, have been placed on lockdown.
This has resulted in an economic and an industrial slowdown which has brought about a decline in the amount of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) which motor vehicles, mass transit, aeroplane flights, power plants and other facilities have released into the atmosphere.
The city of Wuhan was the first to be placed under lockdown (on January 23) and was the first region to show a decrease in air pollution levels as viewed through satellite images.
Subsequently, as more areas have come under quarantine due to the Coronavirus, the decrease in pollution levels has spread across the country.
Another factor which would have contributed to the decrease in pollution is the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations, as businesses and factories were closed from the last week of January into early February.
But studies in previous years have shown that once these celebrations are over, pollution levels quickly return to where they had been before.
“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, a NASA air quality researcher.
“This year, the reduction rate is more significant than in past years and it has lasted longer. “I am not surprised because many cities nationwide have taken measures to minimize spread of the virus,” Liu added.
Previous drops in air pollution
There have been previous occasions when air pollution levels also dropped markedly, such as the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
But those levels were localized around Beijing and quickly rose once the event had finished.
The 2008 global economic recession also resulted in a relatively gradual decrease of pollution levels in several countries.
China currently has around 80 000 confirmed cases of the Coronavirus, with around another 7000 Coronavirus cases spread to countries across the globe.
All images credit: Nasa