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How is COVID-19 Impacting The Natural World?

graphic of a virus shaped Earth
(Photo: Getty Images)

Due to the global pandemic human ongoings around the globe have vastly reduced. Social distancing efforts to fight the COVID-19 outbreak also means there are fewer planes, trains, and automobiles moving around. As human activity slows down scientists are starting to see this impact our natural world. The lack of regular human activity is now noticeable in the air, on land, and in our waterways. How is COVID-19 impacting the natural world? Listen to this Question Your World radio report produced by the Science Museum of Virginia to find out.

Since late 2019 the world has been hearing about the coronavirus at some capacity. As the news and virus spread across the globe humanity began to slow down and human activity started to noticeably decrease. As the globe began to see a decrease in human ongoings we slowly started to see how these changes are impacting our natural world.

For example, China has reported clear air quality as a result of lowered human activity. They’re seeing  large drops in levels of Nitrogen Dioxide, or NO2, a common emission from passenger car tailpipes. Similar slow downs have been reported right here in Richmond based on data collected from air quality sensors at the Arthur Ashe Boulevard Interstate 95 exit ramp. We’re currently seeing a 43% reduction in passenger traffic as compared to this time last year.  Los AngelosLas Vegas, and many other large cities in the nation are reporting similar findings. Even some of the most air-polluted cities on Earth are starting to see clearer air quality. New Delhi, some of the most air-polluted cities on Earth too is reporting clearer skies as the daily barrage of traffic.

The decreased human activity is not only being felt in our cities, the water ways around the world are quieter as well with cruise ships currently unable to operate and with fewer vessels in general. Scientists have shown that ambient noise from our ships in the ocean raises stress-hormone levels for many marine animals, which impacts their  reproductionsocial behavior, and  metabolic health. Scientists will continue to monitor the ocean and this will allow them to study the data as it comes in regarding how decreased human maritime traffic is impacting our oceans.

The  land is quieter as well. As the rumble of our vehicles slow down, scientists are able to detect more of our Earth’s natural seismic activity than ever before. Seismometers around the globe have noticed the hum of human activity slow down and now these machines are able to detect things like 5.5 magnitude earthquakes on the other side of the globe!

While the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are nothing short of troubling, right now we and Mother Nature can at least enjoy a breath of fresh air. From all of us to all of you, stay safe and healthy out there!

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