The space agencies for the U.S. and Europe have found that the outbreak of a new coronavirus has had a positive side effect in China.
NASA and the European Space Agency satellites found that the economic slowdown caused by efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 have resulted in up to a 30% decrease in nitrogen dioxide pollution over China.
Nitrogen dioxide is one of a group of highly reactive gases that get in the air from burning fuel for cars, trucks and other equipment.
The gas can irritate airways in the respiratory system and lead to the development of asthma or respiratory infections. The gas also interacts with water, oxygen and other chemicals in the atmosphere to form acid rain.
NASA scientists said the reduction in nitrogen oxide pollution was first apparent over Wuhan, but eventually spread across the country.
“This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event,” said Fei Liu, an air quality researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.
Some of the drop off may be attributed to Lunar New Year celebrations, because businesses and factories close from the last week in January into early February to celebrate the festival.
NASA scientists believe the decrease is more than a holiday effect variation. They said they have not seen a post-holiday rebound in the gas.