COVID-19 and its impact on our environment

Have you noticed that many of our conversations nowadays focus on the huge impact that the ongoing pandemic has been having on our lives? From our day-to-day activities to our mid- to long-term plans, we have all had to move around a lot of our schedules and adjust to new routines and arrangements.

Not surprisingly, this pandemic has also affected our existing environment and climate. In this article, we’re going to explore what the main, noticeable differences are and how they have come about.

One of the biggest changes in the last few months has most definitely been the significant decline in air travel. With people being homebound for the most part and international borders being closed, passenger airlines have had somewhat of a compulsory break from their regular activities.

Did you know that by April 2020, over 90% of the population across all countries lived under restricted travel conditions? In turn, this has led to a substantial decrease in air pollution in many places around the globe.

Instruments such as GOME-2 on-board EUMETSAT’s Metop satellites captured the remarkable decrease in nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is a type of air pollutant. Do you see the how the graph below is tilted more to the blue side of the scale than the red? This depicts the significant drop in NO2 levels in March 2020.

The resulting slump in demand among travellers because of the travel bans and quarantines that were almost universally set in place have also led to a considerable decrease in carbon emissions. In fact, it has been suggested that it could be the largest ever, annual fall in emissions globally.

Copernicus is the European programme for monitoring the Earth and is coordinated and managed by the European Commission. As interestingly observed by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite, another outcome of this crisis has been the positive change in water quality in some places, most notably in Venice. The water in the canals cleared up and increased the visibility of the fish. The main reason for this increase in clarity and quality is the low amount of boat traffic on the waterways in recent weeks, leading to the settling of the sediment because of the lack of disturbance.

Although not something that we can spot from space, but a rather amusing result of the pandemic, has also been that more animals have been sighted in places they weren’t originally spotted at. Apparently, the quieter world that we have all been a part of over the last few months has led the animals to explore relatively empty streets and waterways, much to the delight of the inhabitants of many areas!

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of the impact that the pandemic has had on our environment, but as we all steadily and slowly aim to get back to normal, EUMETSAT’s fleet of satellites will continue to observe what further changes take place on our planet.

Thanks to their global coverage and the many things they can measure, satellite observations are a critical information source that help us in better understanding changes in our atmosphere, land and oceans.

For more information about the satellites that EUMETSAT operates and the work they do, head on over to the article about our spacecraft.

 

*Some information sourced from Wikipedia

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Prasita Sankar

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