As deadly as the recent coronavirus outbreak has been for China, it has — ironically — also made the country more healthy. According to data from NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), satellites monitoring pollution levels on Earth have noted a huge decrease of nitrogen dioxide over China.
Also known as NO2, the gas is spat out by car exhausts. It can form acid rain, creates smog, and leads to respiratory issues in humans.
Before Chinese cities were placed under quarantine, NASA and ESA data garnered from the Sentinel-5 satellite, suggested that high concentrations of the gas could be found near Wuhan, Shanghai and Beijing. After the quarantine was put in place, the presence gas diminished almost entirely.
Quarantines restrict travel across cities, which means less NO2 in the atmosphere from cars, trucks and other fossil fuel-burning vehicles.
Generally, pollution drops off around Chinese New Year, but this year scientists note that even beyond the festival in 2020, air pollution remains low.
“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,” she concluded.
In 2019, the growing air pollution across China resulted in protests in Wuhan.
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