Coronavirus response leads to big drop in air pollution

Nitrous oxide concentrations observed over the Netherlands after the coronavirus response
Nitrous oxide concentrations observed over the Netherlands, Belgium, and Western Germany. March 22-26, 2020 (L.). February 23-27, 2019 (R.)EU/ESA/NSO/KNMIKNMI

The measures implemented to combat the spread of coronavirus in the Netherlands and in neighboring countries have had the side effect of reducing air pollution, a study organized by Dutch meteorological agency KNMI reveals. By analyzing satellite measurements from between 2019 and 2020, the KNMI estimates that there has been a significant drop off in the amount air pollution above the Netherlands of anywhere between 20 and 60 percent.

Measures to control the spread the virus responsible for Covid-19 began on March 16, and have since led to a "significant reduction" in the country's "road traffic, air traffic and industrial activities," the KNMI says in an official statement. In turn, this has led to "temporarily fewer emission of harmful substances, such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide."

The KNMI goes on to say that, while there are indeed daily fluctuations in the amount of CO2 and NO2 in the air above the Netherlands due to weather changes, their measurements have tried to average these out. However, the reduction estimate "depends on exactly how the comparison is being made and which period is being averaged," KNMI adds.

"Therefore, the estimate based on these measurements alone is relatively uncertain for the Netherlands, with a margin of 20 to 60 percent."

The findings seem to match other meteorological studies which have been taken around the world since the outbreak of Covid-19, with similar results being recorded in Italy and China, according to the KNMI.

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