AGU Panel Explores Environmental Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic, as Observed from Space


COVID-19 has changed the way we live and work, as various health and safety restrictions keep more of us at home more often.

The resulting changes to our behavior are already impacting the environment around us in myriad ways, according to comparisons of remote sensing data before and during the pandemic collected by NASA, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and ESA (European Space Agency) Earth-observing satellites and others.

Researchers from several institutions presented their early results in a virtual press conference on Dec. 7 at the American Geophysical Union’s 2020 fall meeting. They found that the environment is quickly changing, and the timing of those changes seems to indicate that the pandemic may be a reason. Deforestation rates are changing in some places, air pollution is diminishing, water quality is improving, and snow is becoming more reflective in some areas since the pandemic began earlier this year.

“But we will need more research to clearly attribute environmental change to COVID,” said Timothy Newman, National Land Imaging Program Coordinator for the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

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Image via NASA Goddard Space Flight Center