Increased pollution in China could indicate that people are getting back to work. If your a skeptic of how truthful the Chinese government has been in reporting the how many people are sick, and the level of impact to their society your not alone. There is a way, thanks to NASA and science, to get an independent measure of the health of the Chinese people. Thanks to the OMI instrument on NASA’s Aura satellite we can measure the levels of the pollutant Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) in the air above China. NO2 primarily gets in the air from the burning of fuel. NO2 forms from emissions from cars, factories, trucks, buses, power plants etc. This gives us some indication of how many factories are open, overall activity and an indication of people getting are back to work.
The Chinese government has recently reported a significant drop in the number if people infected and dying from the COVID-19 virus. Lets take a look at the data and see if it agrees with their claims.
To get a baseline of what the normal pollution looks like we can go back a year ago and look at the levels. See below:
As you can see in the image above from March of 2019 there is a significant amount of NO2 in the atmosphere one year ago over China, before the virus. Using this as a baseline we can compare what the levels are today. First we will look at February when we know there was significant impact in China, even though they denied it.
Looking at the image above from February 2020 and comparing it to the one above it from March 2019 you can clearly see a decrease in the NO2 levels. This is most likely due to the closure of factories in China due to the workers being sick or quarantined. An indication of the return of pollution in China should indicate re-opening of factories and people getting back to work (and presumably healthy).
In the image above from March 2020 you can see there is indeed an increased level of NO2 over China, but not at the levels of a year ago. Compared to February 2020 there is a significant change and it does appear the factories are starting to produce again but not at the levels of a year ago.
This would seem to indicate that indeed the Chinese people are getting better and the reports from China that they are seeing decreased levels of infection an death could indeed be truthful.
In the animation above you can pretty clearly see the difference from the levels a year ago in China. While not normal they do show that indeed there is an increased level of activity from a month ago. In this troubling time it is good to trust but verify so that we can all look around the media spin and misinformation. Here you have some facts you can assess for yourself. Hopefully this will give you one tangible honest piece of data that you can use as you try to deal with the significant impacts we are all seeing in our daily lives.