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NASA images show widespread impact from coronavirus

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Researchers across the globe, including our area, are shocked by the unexpected environmental consequences of COVID-19. (FAU Harbor Branch)

Researchers across the globe, including our area, are shocked by the unexpected environmental consequences of COVID-19.

“It’s fascinating that this is happening,” said Jim Sullivan, Executive Director of the FAU Harbor Branch. “This is something we never could have planned or expected to see.”

COVID-19's environmental impacts are so stark that they can be seen from space.

New images from NASA show a dramatic drop in air pollution.

Over the past several weeks, NASA satellite measurements have revealed significant reductions in air pollution over the major metropolitan areas of the Northeast United States.

Similar reductions have been observed in other regions of the world.

These recent improvements in air quality have come at a high cost, as communities grapple with widespread lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The visible change, Sullivan believes, is astonishing. He said, “it happened really fast. It looks like a cloud of nitrogen dioxide dissipating.”

NO2 are toxic fumes that come from vehicles, power plants and other machines that burn fossil fuels.

Now that there have been strict travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders across the globe, scientists are seeing less of those pollutants.

“It’s great to see the environment be able to rebound and recover,” said Sullivan.

He said changes in human behavior prompted by the pandemic is creating a rare opportunity for researchers to study how humans influence the environment on a global scale.

“What we are doing right now is an unpretentious global experiment,” he said. “This was unintentional. You could have never have done this under any other circumstance.”



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