You’ve probably heard stories during the COVID 19 pandemic that the sky and water cleared up while most people stayed at home, but how much have things really improved? Scientists are relying on NASA technology to find out. The space agency is funding four research projects that will use satellites and various data sources to understand how the pandemic’s foreclosures have affected pollution worldwide.
One project will investigate the uneven improvement in air quality around the world by linking satellite data with weather, traffic, and other information. Another project will combine satellite data and meteorological data to determine how reduced air pollution has affected the atmosphere. A third initiative will determine whether reduced air pollution has had an impact on water quality, while a fourth initiative will use satellite data on light air pollution to study the socio-economic impact and effectiveness of home visits.
The results should feed into decision-making long after the pandemic is over. Air quality research could change transport policies to improve health, while water studies could influence environmental regulations. It is also safe to say that using changes in light pollution to study social behavior could be useful well beyond a virus outbreak. In this respect, NASA is betting that the money invested in science during the crisis could pay off in the coming decades.