New Data Show Air Pollution Drop Around 50 Percent In Some Cities During Coronavirus Lockdown

Air pollution in some cities is less than half what it was a year ago, according to new data from the satellite that has been documenting the impact of the coronavirus lockdown on air pollution across the world.
Paris has seen nitrogen dioxide drop by 54 percent, while Madrid, Milan and Rome saw a drop of nearly 50%, according to scientists from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, who have been monitoring air pollution over Europe using data from the Tropomi instrument aboard the European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite.
“The corona virus has a broad social impact,” according to the Dutch scientists. “The measures in a large part of the world lead, among other things, to a sharp reduction in road traffic, air traffic, shipping and industrial activities. This in turn leads to a reduction in emissions of climate pollutants, such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. The decrease in the amount of air pollution goes hand in hand with the decrease in economic activity.”
The scientists adjusted the data across a 15-day average to compensate for weather changes that can also influence NO2 levels in the atmosphere. They also claim a hefty 15 percent margin of error.
Nitrogen dioxide is a noxious gas that has been linked to respiratory problems and other health conditions. It also reacts with other chemicals in the atmosphere to form fine particulate pollution, which health agencies have identified as the leading cause of the world’s 7 million annual deaths from air pollution.
NO2 comes from the combustion of fossil fuels in vehicles, power plants and factories. The European scientists monitor it as a bellwether for other pollutants that derive from the same sources, including greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
The Sentinel-5P satellite has become famous since it first detected the drop in emissions over China. Scientists have also been combining its data with data from Chinese and American satellites to detect methane leaks.
On Tuesday the ESA released this image of methane leaking in 2018 from oil and gas operations in California’s Central Valley:
“For the first time, we can now get detailed information on localised methane emission sources such as oil and gas fields,” said Michael Buchwitz, senior scientist at the University of Bremen in Germany and science leader of the European Space Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
The Tropomi instrument has made that possible, the Dutch scientists said:
“TROPOMI is unique because of its high spatial resolution, with which the larger sources and cities can be studied individually.”
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