Satellite images shows Italy's pollution decrease during coronavirus response

There has been a decrease in nitrogen dioxide over Italy, especially in the northern region, reports the European Space Agency. The country has since been placed on a dramatic lockdown restriction and has the highest number of coronavirus cases in Europe and outside of China.

An animation of satellite images from ESA captured the level of toxins in the air above Italy from January 1 to March 11 using a 10-day moving average. Before and after the surge of coronavirus in the country. At the beginning of the year, heavy amounts of nitrogen oxide -- represented in red -- are seen mostly in the northern region of Italy.

By March 11, the amount of nitrogen dioxide emissions decreases, which is represented in a light yellow color on the satellite images. 

"This reduction is particularly visible in northern Italy which coincides with its nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus," said ESA in a statement

At the end of February, certain parts of northern Italy, including 11 towns across Lombardy and Veneto were on lockdown. On March 8, Italy announced a quarantine for its entire northern region. 

On March 9, the Italian Prime Minister announced the quarantine measures will be expanded to the entire country. Two days later, he announced a much-stricter lockdown. Commercial and retail businesses, except grocery stores and pharmacies, will close down. The unprecedented lockdown restricts citizens' movement and activities until April 3. 

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“The decline in nitrogen dioxide emissions over the Po Valley in northern Italy is particularly evident," said Claus Zehner, ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission manager. “Although there could be slight variations in the data due to cloud cover and changing weather, we are very confident that the reduction in emissions that we can see, coincides with the lockdown in Italy causing less traffic and industrial activities.”

This story was reported from Tampa, Fla.