A new online map tracks tropospheric global nitrogen dioxide concentrations—which we’ve seen drop sharply this year as the pandemic shut down economic activity. “This online platform uses data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite and shows the averaged nitrogen dioxide concentrations across the globe—using a 14-day moving average. Concentrations of short-lived pollutants, such as nitrogen dioxide, are indicators of changes in economic slowdowns and are comparable to changes in emissions. Using a 14 day average eliminates some effects which are caused by short term weather changes and cloud cover. The average gives an overview over the whole time period and therefore reflects trends better than shorter time periods.” [ESA]
Concentrations of NO2 in the atmosphere are highly variable in space and time: they typically vary by one order of magnitude within each day and quite substantially from one day to another because of the variations in emissions (for example the impacts of commuter traffic, weekdays and weekend days) as well as changes in the weather conditions. This is why, even if observations are available on a daily (currently available from satellites) or even hourly (ground-based observations) basis, it is necessary to acquire data for a substantial period of time in order to check that a statistically robust departure from normal conditions has emerged.
Cloud cover is a factor that needs to be taken into account as well.
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