(TMU) — Over the years, air pollution in cities across the world had become the “new normal.” But now, in the midst in the worldwide pandemic, cities have become quiet as they are locked down with businesses closed and citizens forced to self-isolate.
As the streets are emptied of all vehicles except those needed for emergencies and essential services, the sky has started clearing and becoming bluer than it’s been for a very, very long time.
In London, Milan, Rome and Paris air pollution levels dropped drastically since the enforced shut downs in attempts to stop the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus.
Across the city of London, the levels of nitrogen dioxide, mostly emitted by vehicle exhausts, and levels of particulate matter, from road transport and burning fuel, have noticeably been reduced in a relatively short period.
According to scientists, PM2.5, an ultra-fine particulate matter, is down to about half the level it has been during this time of the year based on average measurement taken over the past five years.
Since mid-February, both pollutants have dropped by around half, according to data from the London Air Quality Network and analyzed by The National Centre for Atmospheric Science.
Meanwhile, the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-5P satellite confirmed that nitrogen dioxide levels are considerably lower over London compared to March 2019.
Traffic and pollution levels across Europe have dropped amid the #COVIDoutbreak. @DescartesLabs processed data from #Sentinel5P satellite and compared it to March 10-22 of last year. Here's what they found: pic.twitter.com/YoLx2Cm90p
— Pattrn (@pattrn) March 25, 2020
A similar pattern is seen in other European cities. The air pollutant concentrations in Rome have seen a drop of 50%, and by 30% in Paris, according to data from the European Environment Agency.
The huge reduction of traffic pollution in London follows the restrictions on her citizens from gathering in groups and moving around freely, other than for necessary work, emergencies, shopping for essentials like food and medicines, or one form of daily exercise as part of precautionary measures during the pandemic.
Professor Alastair Lewis, from the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, University of York, told the Daily Mail:
‘’Air quality has started to improve in many UK cities, mirroring what has been seen in other countries that have restricted travel and levels of outdoor activity.
This is primarily a consequence of lower traffic volumes, and some of the most clear reductions have been in nitrogen dioxide, which comes primarily from vehicle exhaust.
However fine particles (PM2.5) have also reduced significantly.
In London for example, PM2.5 is noticeably lower than would be expected for this time of year at the roadside, and these reductions stretch through into the suburbs as well.’’
Professor Lewis emphasized the importance of the change in PM2.5 levels compared to what we would usually observe during this time of year. He explained that ‘’air pollution is noisy and often changes based on the weather, and therefore it’s best to compare where we are now against where we might have expected to be based on previous years’’.
Although the current data seem to show reductions in pollution resulting in improved air quality, it seems fair to assume that once travel restrictions are lifted, pollution levels will probably rise to pre-2020 levels. Unless, of course, seeing the blue sky again inspires us to work towards finding a more permanent solution to reduce traffic in our cities.
South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash
What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?
It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.
The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.
The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.
“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”
The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.
Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.
Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.
Heat Wave Kills Over 1 BILLION Sea Creatures on Canada West Coast, Experts Say
Researchers in Canada are reporting that over 1 billion marine animals on Canada’s Pacific coast are likely to have died in last week’s record-shattering heat wave, showing how ecosystems not accustomed to such high temperatures are especially vulnerable to changing conditions.
The deadly “heat dome” that settled over British Columbia and the U.S. Pacific Northwest for five days is believed to have killed at least 500 people in Canada, and pushed temperatures to extreme temperatures of 104F (40C), sparking wildfires that are burning across the Canadian province.
Multiple experts are now saying that the heat wave also took a horrifying toll on marine life, leaving “postapocalyptic” scenes in its wake.
Marine biologist Christopher Harley of the University of British Columbia knew, when he saw the harrowing weather forecasts, that when the tide dropped the sweltering conditions would absolutely fry the mussels, barnacles and sea stars that were exposed.
When the heatwave actually struck, he was devastated by the stench of decay and the vast death toll sustained by the local ecosystem.
“The shore doesn’t usually crunch when you walk on it,” he told The Guardian. “But there were so many empty mussel shells lying everywhere that you just couldn’t avoid stepping on dead animals while walking around.”
Mussels and barnacles can typical deal with harsh temperatures as high as 113F for a few hours – but any more than that is simply not survivable.
Harley told the New York Times that the loss of mussels likely reaches into the hundreds of millions.
However, when factoring in the death of other marine animals that once lived on the shore and resided on the mussel beds – such as hermit crabs and their crustacean relatives, worms, sea cucumbers and other creatures – the number could quite easily exceed one billion.
“It just feels like one of those postapocalyptic movies,” Harley said.
Harley’s colleagues have also reported on dead sea anemones, rock fish and oysters in the region.
In neighboring Alberta, a massive number of fish also washed up on the shores, likely due to the heat wave.
Fortunately, mussels are able to regenerate over about two years. Starfish and clams, however, live for decades and reproduce much more slowly.
The domino effect of such a vast loss of marine life could be felt on other animals in the ecosystem such as sea ducks, a migratory bird that feeds on mussels in the winter before migrating to the Arctic.
The horrific loss shows that the pace of warming climate conditions is likely outstripping the ability of creatures simply to survive – a prospect that makes Harley feel saddened, but he is still trying to find hope.
“A lot of species are not going to be able to keep up with the pace of change,” he said. “Ecosystems are going to change in ways that are really difficult to predict. We don’t know where the tipping points are.”
“Eye of Fire” Blaze In Gulf of Mexico Literally Shows the Ocean Caught on Fire
A massive ring of fire exploded onto the surface of the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, creating apocalyptic imagery that enveloped social media with unbelievable imagery of the “eye of fire.”
The harrowing “fire in the sea” came following a gas leak in an underwater pipeline near a drilling platform that was owned by Mexican state-owned oil company PEMEX.
The blaze, which resembled a lava flow from a volcano took some five hours to fully contain, and was extinguished by 10:45 a.m., reports USA Today.
In footage from the scene, a hellish orange glow can be seen beneath the churning ocean as boats sprayed streams of water in hopes to put out the blaze.
One video, which seems to depict footage out of a disaster movie, has accumulated over 21 million views at the time of this writing.
User Dave Anthony said: “Never in your life forget the time humans caught the ocean on fire and then tried to put it out by spraying water on it.”
While journalist Christopher Bouzy tweeted: “I am not sure how spraying water on a fire that is literally in the ocean is going to help put it out. I need someone to make it make sense for me.”
Company workers resorted to using nitrogen to subdue the blaze.
Fortunately, there were no injuries resulting from the disaster – although it is too early to gauge the impact on the local environment.