China Air Pollution Drops Significantly After Coronavirus Quarantine

'This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event'
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Nitrogen dioxide emissions have fallen significantly since last year (Photo: NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens)

Nitrogen dioxide emissions have fallen significantly since last year (Photo: NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens)

Maps produced by NASA show a significant drop in China's air pollution - much of which has been credited to the coronavirus quarantine.

Millions of residents have been in lockdown in a desperate bid to stop the spread of the virus, which is believed to have started in a wet market in Wuhan in December.

Nitrogen dioxide 

Images published by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) show an unexpected environmental upside to the pandemic. As part of China's aggressive response to the pandemic, factories have been shut down, and residents told to stay home 

As the images show, this has led to a reduction in nitrogen dioxide emissions - which are caused by burning fuel, cars, power plants, and construction machinery. These dangerous emissions are harmful to people and can contribute to a range of respiratory conditions. 

According to NASA, these images show there is evidence that the change is at 'least partly related' to the economic slowdown following the outbreak of coronavirus.

Maps from this year, which are blue, compared to the orange of lat year, show lower concentrations of nitrogen dioxide emission (Photo: NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens)

Maps from this year, which are blue, compared to the orange of lat year, show lower concentrations of nitrogen dioxide emission (Photo: NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens)

'Dramatic drop-off'

The drop in nitrogen dioxide coincided with Lunar New Year celebrations in China and much of Asia - which usually sees a decrease as businesses and factories close from the last week in January into early February to celebrate the festival. Levels usually increase after the celebration.

NASA notes, however, that there was a larger decrease than usually recorded this year, with Fei Liu, an air quality researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, saying: "This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event. I am not surprised because many cities nationwide have taken measures to minimize spread of the virus."

Barry Lefer, also an air quality scientist at NASA, added: "There is always this general slowdown around this time of the year. Our long-term OMI data allows us to see if these amounts are abnormal and why."

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