Satellite images show how pollution levels across Europe are dropping during the Coronavirus lockdown

Satellite images show how pollution levels across Europe are dropping during the Coronavirus lockdown
Data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, show the average nitrogen dioxide concentrations from March 14 to March 25 2020ESA


  • Satellite images show that pollution levels in major European cities like Rome, Paris, Milan and Madrid dropped during the Coronavirus lockdown.
  • The images were taken over ten days, between March 14 to March 25, and are compared to the same time last year.
  • Further analysis will determine how much of the change in nitrogen dioxide concentration levels can be attributed to the lockdown, and how much is just weather fluctuation.
Factories aren’t pumping out smoke, cars are off the road and planes are grounded as all of Europe goes into a lockdown to keep Coronavirus from spreading. Being forced indoors isn’t ideal, but according to satellite images shared by the European Space Agency’s ( ESA) Copernicus Sentinel-5P — getting humans off the streets has done wonders for climate change.

Satellite images show how pollution levels across Europe are dropping during the Coronavirus lockdown
Data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, shows the average nitrogen dioxide concentrations from 14 to 25 March 2020, compared to the monthly average concentrations from 2019 over FranceESA

The nitrogen dioxide concentration in most countries drastically reduced over the span of 10 days — between March 14 to March 25 — as compared to the same time last year. According to the data, major cities like Paris, Milan and Madrid had the most to gain.
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Satellite images show how pollution levels across Europe are dropping during the Coronavirus lockdown
Data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, shows the average nitrogen dioxide concentrations from 14 to 25 March 2020, compared to the monthly average concentrations from 2019 over SpainESA

It’s too soon to say if the change in concentration is a result of the lockdown since the level of nitrogen dioxide varies from day-to-day due to changes in the weather.

Satellite images show how pollution levels across Europe are dropping during the Coronavirus lockdown
Data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, shows the average nitrogen dioxide concentrations from 14 to 25 March 2020, compared to the monthly average concentrations from 2019 over Italy.ESA

“Atmospheric chemistry models, which account for daily changes in weather, in combination with inverse modelling techniques are needed to quantify the emission based on the satellite observations,” said Henk Eskes, a scientist at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI).
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Aside from Europe, the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite also shared images of the drop in nitrogen level over China. According to the ESA, there was a reduction of 20% to 30% in surface particular matter over large parts of the country. Unlike the observations for Europe, scientists are confident that at least a part of the reason that pollution dissipated was the Coronavirus lockdown.

“We can certainly attribute a part of the nitrogen dioxide concentration reduction to the impact of the Coronavirus,” said Claus Zehner, the satellite’s mission manager.

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See also:
Coronavirus lockdown in India lets animals return to the streets — but the Malabar Civet is not one of them

Follow the comprehensive coverage of the Coronavirus pandemic in India on Business Insider India.
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