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As economic activity resumes in China following the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, levels of the air pollutant nitrogen dioxide (NO2) are rising to traditional standards for the first time this year.

According to NASA’s Earth Observatory reports, in February of 2020 scientists using NASA and European satellites identified there was a significant reduction in NO2 over the country after COVID-19 shutdown regulations took effect.


With the conclusion of stringent health mandates, just three months later scientists saw their anticipated rebound.

NO2 is a noxious gas emitted primarily through the burning of gasoline, coal, and diesel fuel by motor vehicles, power plants, and industrial facilities.

The maps on this page show levels of nitrogen dioxide in the troposphere (the lowest layer of the atmosphere) over China. The maps above show NO2 levels in central and eastern portions of the country from February 10–25 (during the quarantine) and April 20 to May 12 (after restrictions were lifted). (NASA)

When nitrogen dioxide is closer to the Earth's surface, it can turn into ozone that decreases air quality and makes breathing conditions unhealthy. When higher in our atmosphere, NO2 can form acid rain.

Researchers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center's Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamics Laboratory have monitored NO2 as well as general global air quality for several decades.

Data collected by the Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI) on the European Space Agency's Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite marked notable changes in levels of nitrogen dioxide in the troposphere over China during periods during and after shutdowns.


The Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA’s Aura satellite -- which provides lower spatial resolution, but a longer data record -- has made comparable measurements since the early 2000s.

Interestingly enough, past research has revealed that air pollution in China usually decreases during New Year’s celebrations and then increases slowly in the month after the celebrations are over.

Yet, during the pandemic, this increase was delayed by several weeks.


In February and March 2020, NO2 levels over Wuhan and some other Chinese cities were well below long-term trends. By April levels bounced back, reaching the long-term norm for the season.

That said, NASA's Earth Observatory noted that increasing sunlight shortens the lifetime of the gas near the ground, and shifting weather patterns can temper NO2 to disperse without resistance from the air.

Julia Musto is a reporter for Fox News Digital. You can find her on Twitter at @JuliaElenaMusto.

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EXCLUSIVE: Elon Musk has been approached by one network and two cable channels who want to air public debate between him and Twitter chair Parag Agrawal as legal battle over aborted $44b takeover rages

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has been approached by one unnamed network and two unnamed cable channels to air his proposed debate against Twitter chairman Parag Agrawal, after Musk dropped his bid to buy Twitter, sources tell

Musk tweeted at Agrawal on Saturday, challenging him to a public debate 'about the Twitter bot percentage.' Musk wrote in a now-deleted tweet he wants Agrawal to 'prove to the public that Twitter has

But Twitter has also requested information from Musk's adviser, Morgan Stanley. 

More subpoenas for the companies Tesla and SpaceX have also been requested to turn over information about the deal, along with conversational exchanges with their boss, according to Bloomberg. 

Bret Taylor, Twitter's chairman, tweeted the board was 'committed to closing the transaction' under the current terms of the deal and they were 'confident' they would win. 

In May, the crypto-currency exchange Binance put $500 million towards the Tesla CEO's $7.1 billion buyout of Twitter. Twitter further subpoenaed Binance to learn more about the investment, according to the report.

Twitter has also requested information on investors Chamath Palihapitiya, David Sacks, Steve Jurvetson, Marc Andreessen, Jason Calacanis and Keith Rabois, among others. 

Investor Joe Lonsdale, an associate of Musk, said he received a subpoena from the social media firm. He called the subpoena a 'giant harassing fishing expedition.'

Investor Joe Lonsdale announced on Twitter that he had received a subpoena from the platform. He said he was not associated with the deal aside from making 'a few snarky comments' and called the legal probe a 'giant harassing fishing expedition.'

Those in the subpoenas may be called to testify in court.

Analysts said that Twitter is likely trying to find evidence that Musk made statements privately that contradicted his public stance that the company's issues with fake accounts made the buyout untenable.

For instance, if Musk hypothetically downplayed the bot issue as he sought financial backing for the deal, or revealed to confidantes that he had other reasons for backing out of the acquisition, it could bolster Twitter's case.

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