How satellite data is helping to track the effect of the virus

Jon Lawson
NASA's view of San Fransisco harbour

NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) have teamed up to share data gathered from space. The idea is to allow everyone to view the impact of Covid-19 via wide-scale environmental and human factors. Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, explains, “Together NASA, ESA and JAXA represent a great human asset: advanced Earth-observing instruments in space that are used every day to benefit society and advance knowledge about our home planet. When we began to see from space how changing patterns of human activity caused by the pandemic were having a visible impact on the planet, we knew that if we combined resources, we could bring a powerful new analytical tool to bear on this fast-moving crisis.”

The project started in April when satellite streams were analysed to see what data could prove to be most useful. The information is collated and presented via the joint Covid-19 Earth Observation Dashboard. Other factors such as agriculture and changes in air and water quality also feature. 

As well as urban areas, harbours have been singled out for study as the economy tentatively reopens and pollutant levels return to pre-pandemic levels. 

The partners hope this will give policy makers a better view into how human-made emissions affect the environment. Over time they are going to expand the site. 

Recent Issues