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To see the effects of Covid-19, scientists turn to space

From above the Earth, space agencies' satellites had a vantage point on coronavirus like no other.

As the coronavirus outbreak forced people to stay home, slowing down traffic, and causing some industries to shut down, space agencies looked down at our planet from the skies and saw the effects of the global pandemic from space.

Both NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) satellites spotted a significant decrease in air pollution levels over countries such as China, Italy, France, and the United States, mirroring the course of the pandemic and the subsequent shut down in human activity.

The change in global emissions was evident from above as soon as April of this year, demonstrating how fast our environment can shift in response to the actions of humankind.

INVERSE IS COUNTING DOWN THE 20 MOST UNIVERSE-ALTERING MOMENTS OF 2020. THIS IS NUMBER 10. SEE THE FULL LIST HERE.

This animation, using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, shows the nitrogen dioxide concentrations over China from 20 December 2019 until 16 March 2020.contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019-20), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

In April, NASA released satellite data revealing a dramatic reduction in the levels of nitrogen dioxide over metropolitan areas of the Northeast United States. The data showed the lowest monthly atmospheric nitrogen dioxide levels recorded over the region since 2005, when NASA's Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) began operating.

The improvements in air quality came at a high cost, as communities grapple with widespread lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders as a result of the spread of Covid-19.NASA

Nitrogen dioxide is one of the most abundant greenhouse gas pollutants, generated by burning fossil fuels for electricity or transportation.

Overall, the nitrogen dioxide levels in March 2020 were about 30 percent lower than they were compared to the average levels recorded from March 2015 through March 2019.

Meanwhile, satellite imagery collected by ESA showed that air pollution levels had significantly dropped across Europe and China.

In a series of visualizations released in March, ESA used data collected by its Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite to show how air pollution levels over Paris, Madrid, Rome, Italy, and China have changed from December to March.

These images, using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, show the average nitrogen dioxide concentrations from 14 to 25 March 2020, compared to the monthly average concentrations from 2019.ESA

The data revealed a 20-30 percent reduction in fine particle matter compared with the previous three years.

As one of the many consequences of the coronavirus this year, the reduction in air pollution levels highlights how a slight decrease in human activity can have a major effect on our environment.

INVERSE IS COUNTING DOWN THE 20 MOST UNIVERSE-ALTERING MOMENTS OF 2020. THIS IS NUMBER 10. Read the original story here.

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