By: Amanda Quinn
Summary: Due to the recent outbreak of COVID-19 specifically in Wuhan, China, the residents were ordered to stay inside, only leave when necessary, and almost all work was stopped until the outbreak was contained. This included airplane industries, power plants, factories of all kinds, and more to shut down immediately and with that, stopping the majority of greenhouse gas emissions that are usually released into the atmosphere. Although COVID-19 is notoriously known for having an extremely high death rate, air pollution contributes to more than one million deaths in China each year. With the inability to pollute the Earth as much as usual since the majority of citizens are locked inside their homes, there has been an immense decrease in the amount of nitrogen dioxide in the air, one of the main greenhouse gases released when burning fossil fuels. This has helped the skies seem to look like they are clearing up and reports from people living in Shanghai, China they say “it's been some of the most pristine blue skies that they remember over the winter,” (NPR). These reports come from the fact that when comparing January-February of 2019’s levels of nitrogen dioxide to now the NO2 emissions were roughly between 250-400 m2. At the same time this year, they are between 50-125 m2 which is a drastic difference of almost more than 100 m2. From records of years before there has never been a difference this large in the air quality over Wuhan, China. Although this air quality clearing comes with a cost, it probably would not have ever happened on its own, making now the perfect time to maintain it where it is and not let it bounce back to where it was last year hopefully marking a turning point in climate change.
Why we should care? With the extremely large population in China and the need to provide for more people than any other country, they emit more greenhouse gases than what should be taken up by the atmosphere leaving the rest of it to wallow over the country in large, gloomy pollution clouds. An unintended benefit of the COVID-19 lockdown is that the NO2 emissions have plummeted from last year’s records making the skies noticeably more clear.
Example News Article:
I found this topic especially interesting because nitrogen dioxide emissions seem to be increasing at a higher rate every single year and there has yet to be a time when they have dramatically dipped as there is right now. It is common sense that since factories and plants have shut down and entire cities in China are on lockdown the emissions of greenhouse gases have slowed in result, but it is what happens after that is so intriguing. As expected, when pollution decreases air quality will become clearer and less contaminated which is exactly what is happening in Wuhan, China right now with the city having been on a tight lockdown with no air travel coming in or out and little to no road traffic due to people not needing to go to work in the meantime. This has reduced NO2 emissions dramatically showing a drop to upwards of 100 m2 of the greenhouse gas less than what was in the air at this same time last year.
Science in Action.
Dr. Fei Liu works for NASA as an air quality research scientist and for Universities Space Research Association (USRA).
Lauri Myllyvirta is the lead analyst for the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.
- Dr. Liu has been researching the air quality in China and has written multiple research papers on the subject which is why she seems qualified and relevant to the topic I chose to research. She is also in the process of creating a new methodology that would contain carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants all while using satellite observations of emitted nitrogen dioxide.
- Lauri Myllyvirta has been an established air quality researcher for well over three and a half years now where he has lead both the Energy and Clean Air analytics and for the Global Air Pollution Unit which deems him a reliable source for understanding what it means that China’s air pollution is so low now out of nowhere. He has researched different ways in order to decrease climate change starting with minimizing our carbon dioxide emissions.
By: Taylor Demeere
Summary: The Venice Italian water ways have been the clearest they have been in 60 years, and that is because water transportation has taken a halt. Venice typically flourishes with tourists, meaning there is always some sort of transportation going on, mainly in the famous Venice canals. But because of the lack of tourists, and civilians remaining in isolation, the canals are seeing little water movement. This has caused sediment to settle to the bottom and calm, while typically boats are stirring up the sediment. With no traffic the canals have a chance to settle itself creating a clearer look to the water. The water has been so clear that citizens can actually see fish swimming at the bottom of the canal. Although water ways are not being “cleaned” and only cleared, there is a bright side to this. It has been rumored that it is highly likely that the air quality in Italy is improving day by day while there is less and less pollutants being released into the air. With humanity taking a pause on their day to day lives, wildlife creatures are taking back their natural habitats. Swans and dolphins have been spotted swimming around the port, meaning that they are feeling comfortable and unthreatened by humanity to finally flourish in their natural homes. Just because the water ways are not technically being cleaned and their quality remains the same, does not mean good has not come out of this situation. Good indeed has come from this situation in many ways. Animals swimming freely in their natural habitats, air quality improvements and an overall break on the harsh pollutants that humans release into the atmosphere every day.
Why we should care? Humans should be concerned about polluting the earth. Wildlife has been flourishing in canals, which means that they are feeling comfortable in their natural habitats. This should be a wake-up call for humans to stop pollution as much as possible and work towards a cleaner planet not for just humanity, but all wildlife creatures as well.
Example News Article:
This article was especially interesting because not only did it talk about the water ways being cleared but also the potential of cleaner air quality. Venice’s governor has mentioned that it is not confirmed but it is highly likely that the air quality has improved in Italy since pollutants have decreased a lot. The typically cloudy canals are now clear enough to see fish swimming at the bottom. Although this does not mean better water quality it does mean that wildlife is coming back to their habitats without human disruptions. The tourist industry came to a “screeching halt” in Italy causing transportation rates to drop. Another very interesting fact in the article was that colder temperatures also play a part in the clear water ways. At 57 degrees Fahrenheit there is little synthesis of organic compounds from carbon dioxide which does not begin until about 62 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of these events that make the water appear clearer, swans, dolphins and fish are now flourishing in the beautiful water ways of Venice, when they typically would not have.
Science in Action:
Dr. Pierpaolo Campostrini is Managing Director at Corila Consortium for managing scientific research of the Venice Lagoon System, Venice, Italy.
Pierpaolo Campostrini is an author of several scientific papers, reviewer and member of the Editorial board of scientific journals, editor of volumes on the safeguarding of Venice, and the lecturer for Venice International University. He was also tenured researcher of National Council Research and Contract professor at the University of Padua and Udine, acquiring international experience in large scientific projects. Campostrini was the manager of several research programs under the role of CORILAS director. He also participates in various European projects, and was even part of the “Group of Ten” for establishing a stakeholder platform related to the Integrated Maritime Policy. Campostrini’s research for this specific topic concluded that Venice’s waterways are not technically “cleaner”, but only clearer. This is because of less transportation due to no visitors, so boats are no longer traveling through the canals, causing the sediment to settle and creating a clearer look. Boat traffic typically brings sediment to the waters surface, so without boat traffic in place, the canals finally have a chance to settle and calm down, which leads to the attraction of more wildlife than per usual.
EVS 1500 is blogging everyday this month about an environmental issue we've seen in the news this year (2019/2020). Notably right now a lot of the focus is on environmental stories related to the pandemic. Check in everyday to see what story an individual student focuses on!