leer en español | leer en portugués
NASA Air Quality Analysis of the COVID-19 Pandemic
NASA’s Air Quality group will regularly produce images from Aura's Ozone Monitoring Instrument data, showing how nitrogen dioxide (NO2), an air pollutant, is changing due to the evolving restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The group will also produce images of other air pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide (SO2).
NO2 is primarily emitted from burning of fossil fuels (diesel, gasoline, coal) while driving cars and generating electricity. If the data are properly processed and interpreted, changes in NO2 levels can be used as an indicator of changes in human activity.
Major anthropogenic activities that emit SO2 include electricity generation, oil and gas extraction, and metal smelting. SO2 is emitted during electricity generation if the coal burned has sulfur impurities that are not removed (or not “scrubbed”) from the plant’s exhaust stacks.
All imagery will be archived on the Air Quality news page, as well as on NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio website (here and here). These images are free and publicly available.
Latest NO2 Imagery Related to Restrictions in Place Due to COVID-19:
South America: On June 1, the World Health Organization noted that Central and South American countries have become “the intense zones” for COVID-19 transmission. The Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on board NASA’s Aura satellite provides data that indicate that restrictions on human activity have led to about a 36% decrease in NO2 levels in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, relative to previous years. Other large cities in South America show similar decreases in NO2: 36% in Santiago, Chile; 35% in São Paolo, Brazil; and 40% in Buenos Aires, Argentina. One notable exception is in Lima, Peru, showing a 69% decrease. The large decrease may partly be associated with natural variations in weather that can, for instance, disperse air pollution more quickly. Additional analysis is required to determine the amount of the decrease of NO2 in Lima that is associated with a decrease in human activity. A notable increase in NO2 occurred in northern South America, which is likely associated with increased agricultural burning in 2020 relative to previous years.