Images Show Drastic Drop In Chinese Pollution Since Coronavirus Quarantine

by : Julia Banim on : 01 Mar 2020 11:30
Images Show Drastic Drop In China Pollution Caused By Coronavirus QuarantineNASA

Startling satellite images published by NASA have revealed a steep decline in China’s pollution levels, believed to be partly attributed to an economic slowdown prompted by the coronavirus outbreak.

Maps from NASA show a stark reduction in terms of the country’s levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a harmful gas emitted by cars, power plants and industrial facilities.


These findings come at a time of record-breaking declines in China’s factory activities, with manufacturers halting work in an attempt to keep coronavirus from spreading further.


News about the outbreak first began towards the end of 2019, when it emerged doctors in the city of Wuhan were treating dozens of pneumonia cases that had an unknown source. Just days later, it was confirmed these cases were due to a new coronavirus (COVID-19).

By January 23, 2020, authorities put a stop to transportation going in and out of Wuhan, as well as local businesses, in order to keep the disease contained. This marked the first of several quarantines established within China and across the world.


Millions of people have since been quarantined, with the virus having been detected in at least 56 countries by February 28, 2020. NASA scientists found the reduction in NO2 pollution was first apparent close to Wuhan, eventually spreading throughout the country, saying: ‘There is evidence that the change is at least partly related to the economic slowdown following the outbreak of coronavirus.’

Air quality researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Fei Liu, said:

This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event.


Although Liu recalls seeing NO2 drop throughout several countries during the economic recession of 2008, this decrease was a gradual one.

Scientists have also previously noted a substantial reduction near Beijing during the 2008 Olympics. However, this impact was largely localised around the city, with pollution levels rising once more after the Olympics ended.

This recent NO2 drop coincides with China’s Lunar New Year celebrations, a time when businesses and factories will generally close from the end of January until early February. Air pollution has previously been seen to decrease during this time, increasing once the festivities are over.

This year, however, pollution levels did not rise again after the celebrations ended, suggesting the recent data is indicative of far more than a holiday effect.

Coronavirus quarantinePA

Liu said:

This year, the reduction rate is more significant than in past years and it has lasted longer. I am not surprised because many cities nationwide have taken measures to minimize spread of the virus.

As reported by BBC News, at least 56 million people in Hubei province – the epicentre of the outbreak – are under strict orders to stay inside their residential communities or villages. At one point, approximately 500 million people were reportedly affected by movement restrictions.


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Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.

Topics: News, China, Coronavirus, NASA, Pollution, Quarantine, Wuhan


NASA and 1 other
  1. NASA

    Airborne Nitrogen Dioxide Plummets Over China

  2. BBC News

    Coronavirus: How China is keeping busy during quarantine