ECU scientists: Stay at home orders having positive impact on environment

ECU scientists: Stay at home orders having positive impact on environment
An image from NASA reveals a substantial decrease in nitrogen levels across major metropolitan areas in the Northeast United States, as we emit less green house gases during the pandemic. (Source: NASA)

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) -- Stay at home order are keeping more people from driving and flying, while also slowing industrial manufacturing, and scientists say it's having a positive effect on the environment.

An image from NASA reveals a substantial decrease in nitrogen levels across major metropolitan areas in the Northeast United States, as we emit less green house gases during the pandemic.

The same model showing levels between March 2015 and 2019 tells a much different story.

“Pollution levels are down by 30% compared to normal and that’s pretty low, lower than any time, any month in a year that the satellite has started monitoring pollution levels in the past 15 years," says Dr. Tom Rickenbach, an atmospheric science professor at ECU.

Researchers say that improved pollution levels don’t just benefit the environment, but the health of individuals as well.

“It also reduces the kind of pollution that makes people actually more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19 virus," Rickenbach adds.

The reductions show just how much of an immediate change less industrial manufacturing and driving could have on our atmosphere.Dr. Scott Curtis is a distinguished atmospheric science professor at ECU and he said “It’s interesting and it does kind of tell you that humans have a big impact on the atmosphere.“

Giving us a glimpse of what a future of less emissions could hold.

“Its showing what the earth can be like, if we were to use a less amount of CO2 going into our atmosphere," says Russell James, an ECU masters student.

“It’s important for people to understand what we’re trying to protect in the natural beauty of the environment.“ Curtis adds.

Dr. Rickenbach said once we get back to a normal pace of life emissions will pick back up again.