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For information on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted global air pollution, visit the following links for more information:

  • The "News" tab on this site quantifies the impact on NO2 and SO2 levels around the world. A NASA Hyperwall presentation puts the changes in air pollution associated with the pandemic into historical perspective. Also, visit the "Pollutants" tabs for more information.
  • A presentation on changes in NO2 around the world associated with the global pandemic.
  • A presentation by Thomas Zurbuchen (NASA Associate Administrator for Science Mission Directorate) entitled, "Visualizing the Impact of COVID-19 Through the Lens of NASA Science".
  • The "COVID-19 Dashboard" shows numerous satellite indicators of air pollutants and features "Discoveries", which highlight how NASA satellites and other Earth observing resources reveal the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Earth’s air, land, water, and climate.
  • For scientists: The "Global Nitrogen Dioxide Monitoring Home Page" allows the user to view the latest impacts on NO2 levels as well as how NO2 levels have evolved since the beginning of 2020. Careful interpretation of the data is required.

NASA's Fleet of Earth Observing Satellites: Monitoring Our Planet's Health

NASA has a fleet of Earth-observing satellites whose instruments observe our planet's oceans, biosphere, and atmosphere. Several of these satellites have instruments that observe air pollutants around the world. The data collected are being used by air quality managers and researchers studying the impact of air pollution on human health and agriculture.

Air Pollutants Observed from Space

Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2): NO2 is unhealthy to breathe and is primarily generated during fossil fuel combustion, so thermal power plants and automobiles are the dominant sources.

Ozone (O3) & Precursors: At Earth's surface, O3 is unhealthy to breathe and also negatively impacts plants, reducing crop yields.

Particulate Matter (PM) & Precursors: PM are tiny particles (e.g., smoke and dust) that cause numerous health issues when breathed in.

Impacts of Air Pollution: How Satellite Data Can Help

Human Health: Exposure to outdoor air pollution is responsible for an estimated 4 million premature deaths annually with about another 3-4 million resulting from exposure to indoor air pollution; that is, air pollution is responsible for about 1 in 9 deaths worldwide (WHO, 2018;  Cohen et al., 2017). The Urban Air Quality Visualizations webtool from George Washington U. allows you to view historical trends of air pollutants for your city with the concomitant impacts on human health.

Agriculture: The economic impact of crop yield loss due to pollution is significant all over the world. Air pollution causes global crop yield losses for wheat, corn, and soybeans that are estimated to range from $11-18 billion annually, with the greatest economic loss estimated to occur in the United States ($3.1 billion).

Global ABS Visualization for 2005Global ABS Visualization for 2014
Image Credit: 
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

The slider above shows satellite data of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from the Aura Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) data for two years, 2005 (left) and 2016 (right). The data indicate that levels of this pollutant changed significantly over the last decade in many places around the world.  Slide the bar from back and forth to see these changes.  More information on NO2 trends for each region and more than 300 world cities can be found under the Nitrogen Dioxide tab.

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