Satellite images show decline in air pollution over Italy amid coronavirus lockdown

TORONTO — New images from the European Space Agency show a decrease in air pollution over northern Italy amid the country’s coronavirus lockdown.

An animation of satellite data from the ESA’s Copernicus satellite collected between January 1 and March 11 shows a decrease in emissions across Europe, particularly over Italy, as COVID-19 prompted lockdowns and reduced activity.

As of March 14, Italy reported more than 17,660 COVID-19 patients, the largest outbreak of confirmed cases reported outside of China. Lockdowns started in Italy in late February.

“The decline in nitrogen dioxide emissions over the Po Valley in northern Italy is particularly evident,” said Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission manager Claus Zehner in a press release. 

“Although there could be slight variations in the data due to cloud cover and changing weather, we are very confident that the reduction in emissions that we can see coincides with the lockdown in Italy, causing less traffic and industrial activities.”

The data was collected by the satellite’s Tropomi instrument, which maps air pollutants around the globe.

“Tropomi is the most accurate instrument today that measures air pollution from space,” said Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s director of earth observation programs.

“These measurements, globally available thanks to the free and open data policy, provide crucial information for citizens and decision makers.”

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