Most of the United States is locked in to help limit the spread of the coronavirus, which results in less human activity outside and dramatically decreases nitrogen dioxide levels by “unprecedented” amounts.
A new card, created by Further, highlights the dramatic decline using data from a European Space Agency satellite and shows country snapshots from December 2019 to March 20, 2020.
As millions of Americans stop driving their cars, levels of nitrogen dioxide – which form when fossil fuels are burned – have plummeted.
Powered by Google Earth Engine, the map reveals that the major metropolitan areas that are home to hundreds of thousands to millions of Americans have experienced improved air quality since the start of the epidemic in the United States.
The two major declines can be seen in Los Angeles, California and New York – both have imposed strict foreclosure orders that require residents to stay at home unless travel is absolutely necessary.
The coronavirus started in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and has since spread to more than 168 countries around the world.
The death toll has now exceeded 15,000 and the number of cases worldwide has exceeded 348,000 – with more than 43,000 cases and more than 500 deaths reported in the United States.
US officials have started setting tough rules for their states starting this month, banning social gatherings, enforcing curfews and shutting down non-core businesses until further notice.
And these homecare and foreclosure policies across the country have dramatically reduced the amount of air pollution.
The map, created by Earther, is powered by Google Earth Engine and extracts data from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-5P satellite.
The satellite is capable of capturing the levels of nitrogen dioxide on Earth, which are released into the air by the burning of fossil fuels.
Nitrogen dioxide is known to increase breathing problems because it inflames the lining of the lungs and reduces the person’s ability to fight off lung infections.
It also causes wheezing, coughing, a cold, the flu, and bronchitis, and is linked to asthma.
California was the first to implement a home stay policy earlier this month, with Governor Gavin Newsom viewing socializing outside the home as a crime until further notice.
The decline in the state of nitrogen dioxide began shortly after the policy came into effect, Los Angeles, a pollution hub, experiencing the largest decline.
The Bay Area and San Diego have also seen improved air quality.
The Northeast Corridor, which stretches from Washington DC to Boston, Massachusetts, is home to some 56 million people and is generally heavy with nitrogen dioxide.
However, this is also an area where officials quickly imposed closure on travel and non-essential business.
In New York, all non-essential gatherings of any size are temporarily banned and many companies have been forced to suspend operations.
The Big Apple has been viewed as a hot spot for the virus and while not much dependent on car traffic like Los Angles, New York has also seen air pollution drop since the lockdown started.
Columbia University researchers have found that carbon monoxide emissions over New York are falling by more than 50% from usual levels over the past week.
Carbon dioxide levels have dropped to 10% and methane has also dropped “significantly,” according to the Colombian team.
The rest of the major cities, including Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, generally form a daisy chain of pollution along Interstate 95, but, according to Earther, it has been broken since the zones imposed closures.
In the Midwest, which includes areas from Minnesota to West Virginia, is the largest group of locked-out states.
Currently, six of them have asked residents to leave only for essential trips and more are expected to follow in the coming days.
The map shows a dramatic decrease in pollution in Chicago, which is home to 2.7 million people.
Although many southern states have not yet implemented home-stay policies, it appears that residents are taking charge.
Areas above Houston, Texas, have seen improved air quality, as has New Orleans, which is the only southern state to impose a total lockout.
Earlier this month, NASA and the European Space Agency released a separate set of satellite images that showed a dramatic reduction in the amount of harmful greenhouse gas emissions from China.
Stanford University researchers say that in places like China, reducing air pollution has resulted in fewer premature deaths from breathing toxic air.
Improvements in global air quality are not expected to last long term, however, as scientists warn that things will likely “ return to normal levels ” when the industry picks up.