COVID-19 lockdowns slashed global air pollution by 15% by last June – with most US states cutting their emissions by 25% while some Asian cities reduced theirs by HALF


  • COVID-19 lockdown helped reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides around the world
  • Global reductions fell by 15%, while local reductions were as high as 50%
  • Policy makers say it could take 15 years to reach such a shortfall

Much of the world was forced into lockdown in 2020 to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and although its main aim was to combat the virus, such efforts have led to a ‘rapid’ drop in air pollution emissions. decreased.

A newly published study by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) shows that by June 2020, harmful emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) have decreased globally by 15 percent.

Some cities in China saw a 50 percent drop ‘within weeks’ of their February 2020 lockdowns, while some US states saw a 25 percent drop later in the spring.

“Global ozone levels had dropped to a level that policymakers thought would take at least 15 years to be reached by conventional methods,” NASA shared in a statement. Statement.

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A study conducted by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) shows that harmful emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) have decreased globally by 15 percent, while local reductions were up to 50 percent. Blue areas show negative in emission levels

Kazuyuki Miyazaki, JPL scientist who led the research, said in a statement: ‘I was very pleased that our analysis system was able to capture detailed changes in emissions around the world.

‘The challenging and unprecedented nature of this work is a testament to improving satellite surveillance in service of societal needs.’

The team used satellite data from five NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) orbiting instruments, models of atmospheric chemical reactions, and weather and past climate models to determine whether the lockdowns on ozone compared to 2019 data. The efforts have had no effect.

Combining these tools, the scientists reported a 12 percent drop in global emissions in February, 14 percent in March and 15 percent in April, with a 13 percent reduction in June.

Scientists report global emissions fall by 12 percent in February, 14 percent in March and 15 percent in April, 13 percent in June

Scientists report global emissions fall by 12 percent in February, 14 percent in March and 15 percent in April, 13 percent in June

This was mainly due to the reduction in emissions in Asia and the Americas, which are among the largest producers of harmful gases in the world.  Pictured is Time Square in New York City when much of America was in lockdown

This was mainly due to the reduction in emissions in Asia and the Americas, which are among the largest producers of harmful gases in the world. Pictured is Time Square in New York City when much of America was in lockdown

“In February, emissions reductions from China made the largest contribution (36%) to the global NOx anomaly, while contributions from other regions are larger from March to June, when China eased its restrictions,” the scientists published in the study. written. In science advance.

‘Regional total anthropogenic emissions declined by 18 to 25% in April and May across Europe, North America and the Middle East and West Asia. Africa and South America also show a clear but moderate reduction in emissions in April and May (∼5 to 10%), with substantial spatial variation within regions,’ he said.

Chinese NOx emissions declined sharply from late January to late February, linked to the country’s first lockdown.

This was followed by a rapid recovery to normal levels in March and April, but in May, levels began to ease due to a second lockdown, which further reduced levels by eight per cent.

The team used satellite data from five NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) orbiting instruments, models of atmospheric chemical reactions, and weather and past climate models to determine whether the 2019 data complied with the lockdown efforts. Has any effect on ozone.

The team used satellite data from five NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) orbiting instruments, models of atmospheric chemical reactions, and weather and past climate models to determine whether the 2019 data complied with the lockdown efforts. Has any effect on ozone.

Some cities in China saw a 50 percent drop 'within weeks' of their February 2020 lockdowns, while some US (pictured) states saw a 25 percent drop later in the spring.

Some cities in China saw a 50 percent drop ‘within weeks’ of their February 2020 lockdowns, while some US (pictured) states saw a 25 percent drop later in the spring.

“We estimate that total Chinese emissions reductions from early January to mid-February will be 36% and around 20% due to the COVID restrictions excluding the effect of the Chinese New Year holiday,” the study said.

In Italy, the early implementation of the lockdown resulted in a massive 25 percent reduction in emissions from late February to early May.

Other European countries, such as France and Spain, also experienced large emissions reductions from March to May.

Most of the US announced stay-at-home orders in late March, but NASA saw a slight drop in emissions in late February and early March.

According to the study, levels fell sharply to around 25 per cent in April and May, followed by a moderate recovery in June.

What are the effects of the world’s major air pollutants?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there are six major pollutants that can have an impact on human health and well-being.

particulate matter: Particulate matter is the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air.

These particles come in many shapes and sizes and can be composed of hundreds of different chemicals.

Some are emitted directly from sources, such as construction sites, unpaved roads, fields, smoke stacks or fires.

Fine particles (2.5 parts per million) are the main cause of low visibility (haze) in parts of the United States, including many of our treasured national parks and wilderness areas.

Carbon Monoxide: Breathing air with high concentrations of CO reduces the amount of oxygen that can be carried in the bloodstream to vital organs such as the heart and brain.

At very high levels, which are possible indoors or in other enclosed environments, CO can cause dizziness, confusion, fainting, and death.

Nitrogen dioxide: NItrogen dioxide is mainly found in the air from the burning of fuel. No

It is formed by emissions from cars, trucks and buses, power plants and off-road equipment.

Breathing air containing high concentrations of NO can irritate the airways in the human respiratory system. Such exposure in the short term can exacerbate respiratory diseases, especially asthma, causing respiratory symptoms (such as coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing).

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