Since the Cumbre Vieja volcano began erupting on 19 September 2021, lava has burned through homes, roads and farmlands causing mass destruction on the west part of the Canary Island of La Palma. Satellite imagery has helped authorities monitor and manage the ongoing crisis. From capturing images of the rivers of lava, to measuring gas emissions and assessing damage, the fleet of Copernicus Sentinel satellites have been providing crucial data for local teams. (source: www.esa.int).
The monitoring of air pollutants from space has significantly improved over the past few years, providing ever deeper insights into the effects of economic activity, helping to find solutions to key societal challenges. The Copernicus programme is at the forefront of this task with the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), as well as with existing (Sentinel-5P) and upcoming (Sentinel-4 and Sentinel-5) Copernicus satellites. (source: www.copernicus.eu).
In early 2020, data from satellites were used to show a decline in air pollution coinciding with nationwide lockdowns put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19. One year later, as lockdown restrictions loosen in some countries and regular activity resumes, nitrogen dioxide levels are bouncing back to pre-COVID levels. (source: www.esa.int).
For the first time, scientists, using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, are now able to detect nitrogen dioxide plumes from individual ships from space. Maritime transport has a direct impact on air quality in many coastal cities. Commercial ships and vessels burn fuel for energy and emit several types of air pollution as a by-product, causing the degradation of air quality. A past study estimated that shipping emissions are globally responsible for around 400 000 premature deaths from lung cancer and cardiovascular disease, and 14 million childhood asthma cases each year. (source: www.esa.int).
California, Oregon and Washington State have been burning for over a month now, leaving most of the western United States under smoke—data from the Copernicus Sentinel-2, -3 and -5P missions are providing a wealth of complementary information, needed to monitor the blazes. Record high temperatures, thunderstorms and strong winds developed the critical conditions that allowed fires in western United States to spark and spread. Plumes of smoke from the fires were so extensive that they travelled across the US, reaching the opposite coast and even more incredibly also Europe, as depicted by NOAA. The Sentinel-5P satellite of the European Union's Copernicus Programme, dedicated to monitoring air quality, detected the increased concentrations of a series of air pollutants as emitted by the fires along the US west coast. (source: www.esa.int).
Animation of Sentinel-5P Carbon Monoxide for the month of September as generated by the Mapping Portal. (source: maps.s5p-pal.com).
This year, satellite data have been widely used to monitor fluctuations in air quality brought on by strict COVID-19 measures. The Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, part of the European Copernicus programme, has been continuously mapping changes of air pollution since its launch in 2017. Scientists from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) and the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA-IASB) have used satellite data from Sentinel-5P and ground-based data in order to pinpoint the correlation between COVID-19 and the effects of air pollution across Europe. (source: www.esa.int).
Concentrations of sulphur dioxide in polluted areas in India have decreased by around 40% between April 2019 and April 2020. Using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, from the European Union Copernicus programme, scientists have produced new maps which show the drop in concentrations across the country in times of COVID-19. (source: www.esa.int).
While carbon dioxide is more abundant in the atmosphere and therefore more commonly associated with global warming, methane is around 30 times more potent as a heat-trapping gas. Given its importance, Canadian company GHGSat have worked in collaboration with the Sentinel-5P team at SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research to investigate hotspots of methane emissions during COVID-19. (source: www.esa.int).
Now that COVID-19 mitigation measures are being relaxed in many countries the NO2 concentration is also increasing. Over China, the relaxation of COVID-19 measures brought the NO2 concentrations back to normal levels, as shown in the figure below (source: eo4society.esa.int).
Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite data are showing strong reductions in nitrogen dioxide concentrations over several major cities across Europe – including Paris, Madrid and Rome (source: www.esa.int).
Lockdowns imposed to halt the spread of the coronavirus have been recently linked with cleaner air quality over Europe and China. New images, from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, from the European Union Copernicus programme, now show some cities across India seeing levels drop by around 40–50% owing to its nationwide quarantine (source: www.esa.int).
Recent data have shown a decline of air pollution over northern Italy coinciding with its nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). This new map shows the variation of nitrogen dioxide concentrations over China from December to March – thanks to the Tropomi instrument on board the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite (source: www.esa.int).
CAMS is continually monitoring air quality in Europe and around the world using satellite and ground-based observations and advanced numerical models. In the context of the worldwide COVID-19 crisis, there is increased interest in changing air quality. (source: atmosphere.copernicus.eu).