Here we see the nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentration over central Europe as measured by Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite. The satellite is mapping atmospheric gases for the whole world on a daily basis. In this image, high concentrations are represented in red and low concentrations are represented in blue. The Po valley in the lower centre of the image, is known as the area with the poorest air quality in Europe. High industrialization, field cultivation and the Po valley’s geographical location contribute to high values. Microclimatic conditions caused by the Alps (dark blue area) just north of the Po valley make it harder for natural and artificial emissions to dissolve. There are a number of pollutants which are linked to human activity – in particular the burning of fossil fuels. The most harmful one in terms of human health impact is fine particulate matter or PM2.5. Other harmful pollutants include carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), both of which can originate from vehicle traffic. Bad air quality has a negative effect on human health, causing numerous breathing diseases. With Europe’s being put on hold, improvements in air quality were observed in the Po valley and all over Europe in the months of March and April 2020.
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