(TMU) — As the globe continues to grapple with the inexorable spread of the coronavirus pandemic, air pollution has plunged to unprecedented new lows worldwide and especially in some of the most contaminated cities, new research has found.
On Earth Day, Swiss-based air quality technology company IQAir published a COVID-19 Air Quality Report that shows how air pollution levels in 10 major cities around the globe have fallen to as much as 60 percent due to government-mandated shutdowns of non-essential businesses and physical distancing measures meant to curb the novel coronavirus.
The study examined cities’ measurements before and after the COVID-19 outbreak of the harmful fine particulate matter known as PM 2.5. The particulate matter, which lodges deep into the lungs and passes into vital organs and the bloodstream, causes a number of serious risks to people’s health.
The report looked at London, Los Angeles, New Delhi, New York City, Madrid, Mumbai, Rome, São Paulo, Seoul, and Wuhan.
The research revealed a “drastic drop” in air pollution in almost every city facing lockdown compared to a year earlier, with the exception of Rome.
New Delhi experienced a 60 percent fall of PM2.5 from 2019 levels. The metropolis also experienced a sharp drop in hours during which the Indian capital experienced air pollution ratings of “unhealthy,” with the percentage of hours falling from 68 percent in 2019 to 17 percent during the 2020 lockdown. In Mumbai, air pollution dropped by 34 percent.
Seoul, South Korea, saw a 54 percent decrease from last year while soot levels in Wuhan, China, dropped by 44 percent.
Meanwhile, in São Paulo, Brazil, air pollution has dropped by 32 percent.
In sunny Los Angeles, California, which has long been associated with its clogged freeways and dense smog, Angelenos celebrated Earth Day with some of the best air quality the city has ever seen, according to IQAir. With far fewer cars on the road due to the city’s Safer-at-Home order and much-welcomed spring showers, the City of Angels’ fine particle pollution has dropped by 31 percent compared to last year and 51 percent compared to the previous four-year average.
IQAir North America CEO Glory Dolphin Hammes said:
“We saw that L.A. had some of the cleanest air quality in the world.
“About a year ago, Los Angeles was ranked the worst air quality in the entire country- and now we’re seeing some of the best air quality in the world.”
Meanwhile, New York City saw its air pollution drop by 25 percent as a result of its lockdown.
London and Madrid saw far more modest air pollution reductions at 9 percent and 11 percent, respectively.
Frank Hammes, CEO of IQAir Group said in a statement:
“Across the globe, the coronavirus pandemic has had a monumental impact on the way we live.
“While the human and economic costs are devastating, we are also witnessing how much of air pollution comes from human activity. The drastic reduction in air pollution during COVID-19 lockdowns shows how our habits and behaviors directly impact the air we breathe. That’s an important insight [after] this unique Earth Day.”
While this news is more than welcome amid the horrific stream of daily news related to the novel coronavirus that attacks the respiratory system and our bodies’ major organs, the news regrettably will not last.
Air pollution is expected to kick off again with a vengeance once restrictions are loosened and industries churn back into action. Such rebounds impacting air quality and greenhouse gas emissions have been recorded during past crises including the 2008 recession.
However, the dire fears over a prolonged and deep recession with no precedent since the Great Depression of the 1930s could mean that this respite for the air could last much longer than investors and global markets desire.
Scientists Thrilled by Discovery of Rare, Mammoth 400-Year-Old Coral
A massive 400-year-old hard coral discovered on the Great Barrier Reef has scientists expressing their sense of surprise and excitement.
Named Muga dambhi by the Manbarra people, the Indigenous group who have traditionally taken care of the land, the “exceptionally large” brown and cream-colored coral is located off the coast of Goolboodi or Orpheus Island in the Great Barrier Reef.
It is believed that the coral was spawned some 421 to 438 years ago, meaning that its age predates the arrival of Captain James Cook and the advent of colonization in Australia, notes the Guardian.
The spectacular coral is about 35 feet wide and over 17 feet high, and is double the size of the nearest coral.
Scientists and members of the community participating in a marine science course discovered the specimen earlier this year.
While not the largest coral in the world, the huge find is of major significance to the local ecosystem, according to Adam Smith, an adjunct professor at James Cook University who wrote the field note on the find.
“It’s like a block of apartments,” Smith said. “It attracts other species. There’s other corals, there’s fish, there’s other animals around that use it for shelter or for feeding, so it’s pretty important for them.”
“It’s a bit like finding a giant redwood tree in the middle of a botanic gardens,” he added.
It is likely that the coral hasn’t been discovered for such a long time due to its location in a relatively remote and unvisited portion of a Marine National Park zone that enjoys a high degree of protection.
“Over the last 20 or 30 years, no one has noticed, or observed, or thought it newsworthy enough to share photos, or document, or do research on this giant coral,” Smith said.
The coral is in remarkable condition, with over 70 percent of its surface covered in live coral, coral rock and microalgae. No disease, bleaching or recently deceased coral has been recorded on the specimen.
“The cumulative impact of almost 100 bleaching events and up to 80 major cyclones over a period of four centuries, plus declining nearshore water quality contextualise the high resilience of this Porites coral,” the field note added.
The specific coral has been given the name Muga dhambi, meaning big coral, out of respect for the Indigenous knowledge, language, and culture of the Manbarra Traditional Owners.
Greenland Ice Washed Away as Summit Sees Rain for First Time in Recorded History
For the first time in recorded history, torrential downpours of rain have struck Greenland’s icy summit nearly two miles above sea level.
Greenland, an environmentally sensitive island, is typically known for its majestic ice sheet and snowy climate, but this is fast changing due to a massive melt taking place this summer.
However, the typical snowfall has been replaced in recent years not simply by a few showers, but by heavy rainfall. The torrential downpour last week was so huge, in fact, that it washed away a terrifying amount of ice across some 337,000 square miles of the ice shelf’s surface, reports Earther.
Temperatures at the ice shelf had simultaneously warmed to a significant degree, with the summit reaching 33 degrees Fahrenheit – within a degree above freezing and the third time that the shelf has surpassed freezing temperatures this decade.
The fact that rain is falling on ice rather than snow is also significant because it is melting ice across much of southern Greenland, which already saw huge melting events last month, while hastening rising sea levels that threaten to submerge whole coastal cities and communities.
To make matters worse, any new ice formed by the freezing rainwater will not last long. The ice shelf currently existing on Greenland was formed by the compression of snow over innumerable years, which shines bright white and reflects sunlight away rather than absorbing it, as ice from frozen rain does.
The huge scale of the melt and accompanying rainfall illustrate the growing peril of rapidly warming climate conditions across the globe.
“This event by itself does not have a huge impact, but it’s indicative of the increasing extent, duration, and intensity of melting on Greenland,” wrote Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado. “Like the heat wave in the [U.S. Pacific] northwest, it’s something that’s hard to imagine without the influence of global climate change.”
“Greenland, like the rest of the world, is changing,” Scambos told the Washington Post. “We now see three melting events in a decade in Greenland — and before 1990, that happened about once every 150 years. And now rainfall: in an area where rain never fell.”
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.