Coronavirus and our Climate
Rachel Doornekamp | May 4, 2020
While the world is in social isolation due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic there has been a small glimmer of positivity to come out. As people across the globe are doing their part to stay home and flatten the curve, the Earth is rapidly transforming.
Across the globe there have been reports of clearer water, cleaner air and quieter oceans. Take Portsmouth for example; the Daily Mail reported that the water in the Solent of Portsmouth has become significantly clearer and lighter since the lockdown began.
The changing environment has provided researchers with an incredible and unique opportunity to conduct research in a changing environment. The clearer water is providing scientists with a great look at undersea life. Furthermore, the reduction of ocean noise due to the lockdown is offering researchers a unique opportunity for research and data collection.
In addition to conducting research, the cleaner waters have allowed for optimal ROV surveys. The crystal clear waters have provided operators with ideal conditions for easy and convenient underwater inspections using submersible ROVs.
As noted in the Daily Mail, the colour of the water is influenced by a number of factors, primarily the scattering of red and blue light from the sun. Much of the red light is absorbed leaving the blue light to colour the water, which gets darker and murkier if there are particles in the water. When there is pollution and sediment being produced and moved by driving and other human activity it can make the colour of the water darker and more unclear.
The reduced human activity has resulted in clearer waters throughout the world. This can be seen especially well in Venice, Italy. The famous Venice canals and waterways have become so clear that small fish can be seen swimming.
These exceptionally clear water conditions are incredibly exciting for researchers. Chris Field, director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, assembled scientists to assess the ecological changes happening with so much of humanity housebound. Scientists, he says, are eager to explore unexpected changes in weeds, insects, weather patterns, noise and light pollution.
In addition to clearing waters, noise pollution has decreased dramatically in light of the lockdown. In a recent article, the Guardian outlined a study conducted in the port of Vancouver which demonstrated a consistent noise drop since the beginning of 2020 coinciding with a 20% drop in imports and exports during that same time period. The reduction in traffic has resulted in a weekly 1.5 decibel drop in noise as traffic continues to decline.
This unique drop in ocean noise provides researchers with an incredible opportunity to collect data in a largely unprecedented situation.
“We are facing a moment of truth,” said Michelle Fournet, a marine acoustician at Cornell University, who studies humpback whales in south-east Alaska. “We have an opportunity to listen – and that opportunity to listen will not appear again in our lifetime.”
In a small silver lining, the serious ocean noise reduction has given researchers the rare opportunity to conduct valuable research in a unique environment.
The ocean isn’t the only one benefiting from less human activity. Statistics show that air has become cleaner in numerous locations around the world over the last several weeks.
- Satellite images from NASA and the European Space Agency have shown a significant decrease in nitrogen dioxide pollution in China in the early months of this year after much of the country went into lockdown.
- Scientists at Columbia University reported a 5-10 percent drop in CO2 emissions in New York City the last week of March as traffic levels fell 35 percent.
- The air from Boston to Washington is its cleanest since a NASA satellite started measuring nitrogen dioxide,in 2005, says NASA atmospheric scientist Barry Lefer.
- Compared to the previous five years, March air pollution is down 46 per cent in Paris, 35 per cent in Bengaluru, India, 38 per cent in Sydney, 29 per cent in Los Angeles, 26 per cent in Rio de Janeiro and 9 per cent in Durban, South Africa, NASA measurements show.
Across the globe, air pollution has gone down resulting in cleaner air. These changing conditions continue to provide opportunities for research and learning.
In light of the global pandemic, Deep Trekker has been working on sanitization and decontamination robotic prototypes. Working on both disinfectant sprayers and UV ray models, the prototypes have been designed using the DT640 as a base. With a remotely operated robot, locations can be safely and efficiently sanitized without putting human cleaners at risk. The applications are broad, from hospital rooms to planes to playgrounds. Watch our President Sam Macdonald speak about the new prototypes: