The European Sentinel-5P satellite has detected a significant drop in nitrogen dioxide concentrations in northern Italy between February and March. The decrease in this compound, emitted by vehicles, coincides with the measures adapted to prevent the advance of the disease, which have caused a reduction in traffic and industrial activities.
New data from Copernicus' Sentinel-5P satellite, the Earth observation program led by the European Commission in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA), shows a decrease in air pollution, specifically nitrogen dioxide emissions ( NOT2), in Italy.
The decrease in this pollutant, one of the main harmful substances expelled by vehicles (especially diesel ones), is especially appreciated in the north of the country, coinciding with the national blockade decreed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The same affect has been observed in large urban areas of China with NASA satellites and it is very likely to occur in other European cities where similar measures have been adopted, such as Madrid, although the concentration and dispersion of pollutants greatly influence conditions meteorological conditions, such as rain and wind.
In this case, the data has been obtained with Tropomi, a satellite instrument that maps a large number of air pollutants on a global scale. With your information it has been possible to see the fluctuations in NO emissions2 in Europe between January 1 and March 11, 2020. Using a 10-day moving average, an animation has been made to see its evolution.
Claus Zehner, Head of the Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission for ESA, comments: “The decrease in nitrogen dioxide emissions over the Po Valley, in northern Italy, is especially striking”.
“Although there could be slight variations in the data due to the cloud cover and changing weather - he adds -, we are sure that the reduction in emissions that can be observed coincides with the containment measures of Italy, which have caused a reduction in traffic and industrial activities”.
Data from free access space
For his part, Josef Aschbacher, ESA's Director of Earth Observation Programs, highlights: “Tropomi is the most accurate instrument today for measuring air pollution from space. These measurements, available worldwide thanks to the policy of free and open access to data, provide crucial information for citizens and decision-makers”.
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19), whose registered cases worldwide already amount to more than 160,000, has recently been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. In Italy, their number increased dramatically since the first infected patient arrived at the hospital in mid-February. Today it is the country with the most affected people after China.
In an attempt to reduce the spread of the disease, the Prime Minister of Italy, Giuseppe Conte, announced the blockade of the entire country, closing schools, restaurants, bars, museums and other centers throughout the national territory.
Among many other applications, satellites allow some collateral effects of these measurements to be viewed from space. Sentinel-5P or Precursor is the first satellite of the Copernicus mission dedicated to monitoring our atmosphere. Its Tropomi instrument is capable of mapping numerous trace gases, such as nitrogen dioxide, ozone, formaldehyde, sulfur dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide and aerosols, which affect the air we breathe and, therefore, our health and the environment. .
Given the increasing importance and need to monitor air quality, the upcoming Sentinel-4 and Sentinel-5 missions of the EU's Copernicus program will monitor trace gases and aerosols. These missions will provide information on atmospheric quality, stratospheric ozone and solar radiation, in addition to monitoring the climate.
A similar trend is taking place in Spain
“The crisis unleashed by the coronavirus will, foreseeably, mean a spectacular drop in CO2 in 2020”Says the expert José Santamarta, who has prepared a study for the Sustainability Observatory.
Researchers studying the impact of greenhouse emissions on the climate crisis and human health continue to work to understand the potential implications of the pandemic.