BRIDGEND, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 10: A view of a quiet M4 motorway at Bridgend on April 10, 2020 in Bridgend, United Kingdom. Police have stepped up patrols to prevent people from travelling to beaches and beauty spots over the Easter weekend. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has spread to many countries across the world, claiming almost 97,000 lives and infecting over 1 million people. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

1218026483

BRIDGEND, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 10: A view of a quiet M4 motorway at Bridgend on April 10, 2020 in Bridgend, United Kingdom. Police have stepped up patrols to prevent people from travelling to beaches and beauty spots over the Easter weekend. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has spread to many countries across the world, claiming almost 97,000 lives and infecting over 1 million people. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

Photo by: Matthew Horwood

Matthew Horwood

Clear Skies During Lockdown is a Pandemic Upside

By: Lucy Sherriff

With almost all of the world under lockdown, cars are off the roads and the smog is disappearing in some of the planet’s most polluted atmospheres.

April 15, 2020

From Asia to Europe to North America, the blue skies are back.

Asia

NEW DELHI, INDIA - APRIL 2: Deserted view of Qutub Minar on day nine of the 21-day nationwide lockdown imposed to check the spread of the coronavirus at Mehrauli on April 2, 2020 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

1208946415

NEW DELHI, INDIA - APRIL 2020

Photo by: Hindustan Times

Hindustan Times

NEW DELHI, INDIA - APRIL 2020

In India, which has the world’s biggest lockdown with 1.3 billion people ordered to stay home, has resulted in the country’s traffic slashed to almost nothing and big industries put on pause.

In the capital of New Delhi, which has some of the most pulluted air in the world, clear horizons are abound and residents taking selfies out of pure shock. India’s central pollution control board said 85 of the country’s cities had had an improvement in their air quality just during the first week of lockdown.

And perhaps nowhere is more apparent than the majestic Himalayas, where residents in Jalandhar, in the northwestern state of Punjab, could see the snow-capped peaks more than 100 miles away for the first time in “decades”.

Clear skies along with the cityscapes seen from Kathmandu during the sixth day nationwide lockdown as concerns about the spread of Corona Virus (COVID-19) in Kathmandu, Nepal on Sunday, March 29, 2020. The nationwide lockdown has resulted decreased air pollution level of Kathmandu Valley, which consistently ranks among the most polluted cities in the world. (Photo by Narayan Maharjan/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

1208550231

KATHMANDU, NEPAL - APRIL 2020

Photo by: NurPhoto

NurPhoto

KATHMANDU, NEPAL - APRIL 2020

For 16 out of the 17 days since the lockdown was announced, the state registered as “good” on the country’s national air quality index. In contrast, the same week in 2019 registered not one “good” quality air days.

In China, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) detected huge decreases in nitrogen dioxide over China.

For example, over the city of Wenzhou, mountains could be seen in the distance after factories were shuttered. In Hubei province, the average number of “good quality” air days increased 21.5% in February compared to the same period last year, according to China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment.

North America

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 11: Rodeo Drive is shown on April 11, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. COVID-19 has spread to most countries around the world, claiming 108,000 lives with infections at 1.7 million people. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

1218287376

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - APRIL 2020

Photo by: Kevin Winter

Kevin Winter

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - APRIL 2020

And in Southern California, the view from Echo Park in Los Angeles to Downtown, and beyond to the mountains has been something to behold. Not only that, but Angelenos can see Catalina Island from Griffith Park, perhaps a sight that hasn’t been seen by most, if any.

Europe

MILAN, ITALY - APRIL 12:  Duomo Cathedral is deserted during Easter day due to the coronavirus lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, on April 12, 2020 in Milan, Italy. There have been over 150,000 reported COVID-19 cases in Italy and more than 19,000 related deaths, but the officials are confident the peak of new cases has passed. (Photo by Mattia Ozbot/Soccrates Images/Getty Images)

1209894541

MILAN, ITALY - APRIL 2020

Photo by: Soccrates Images

Soccrates Images

MILAN, ITALY - APRIL 2020

Over in Europe, Italy’s Po Valley has seen a notable decrease in smog, an area that’s one of the continent’s most polluted. The effect of COVID-19 on air quality in Lombardy has also been notable: nearly a 10% decrease in the concentration of NO2 per week over the month of March.

England’s capital London has been attempting to tackle its air pollution issue for years, and now the National Center for Atmospheric Science at the University of York say that there has been a “significant” decline.

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 12: A general view of the closed St Paul's Cathedral and Millennium Bridge on April 12, 2020 in London, England. Public Easter events have been cancelled across the country, with the government urging the public to respect lockdown measures by celebrating the holiday in their homes. Over 1.5 million people across the world have been infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus, with over 7,000 fatalities recorded in the United Kingdom. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

1218326475

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 2020

Photo by: Andrew Redington

Andrew Redington

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 2020

“Air quality has started to improve in many UK cities, mirroring what has been seen in other countries that have restricted travel and levels of outdoor activity,” Alastair Lewis, professor of atmospheric chemistry, told Fortune.

It’s not only at daytime that people are seeing clear skies, but at night the stars are twinkling brightly.

In the south of the country, astrophotographers have taken advantage of there being very few planes to capitalize on the uninterrupted views of the galaxy.

“There are simply no airplanes to ruin the photos,” Trevor Pitt told CNN. “I’ve actually almost become a vampire because I’ve spent so much time out at night.”

Next Up

10 Celebrities Who Are Making a Difference in Australia

With wildfires still blazing through NSW, Australia, celebrities have stepped in to donate what they can to help make a difference.

An Amazonian Tree Sought Refuge with the Norwegian Embassy

When an employee at the Norwegian Embassy in Brazil opened the door to step outside the consulate’s building one morning, an unusual visitor was waiting outside who wished to seek asylum: a 19 foot-tall endangered Jatoba tree.

Wild Animals Explore City Streets Amid Pandemic

In 2020 anything is possible, and the animals are taking back the streets.

Galápagos Giant Tortoises Are Mysteriously Turning Up Dead in Ecuador

Despite the tough protections, there has been a spate of tortoises killed in recent months, and officials fear the animals have been slaughtered for their meat.

Giant Pandas are No Longer Endangered

After decades of work trying to save the giant panda, Chinese officials have announced the species is no longer endangered.

Welcome to the World’s Largest Insect Hotel

Crafted from sustainably felled timber, and sat in the middle of a beautiful nature reserve, with views of majestic mountains and glassy lochs, this brand new hotel in Scotland is already a firm favorite among guests. Although unfortunately for humans, this grand establishment caters to the six-legged kind.

Bat Pups Babble like Babies

Baby greater sac-winged bats show similarities to human babies in the way they string together syllabus before they can learn to “talk.”

There’s a Black Rhino Baby Boom in Zimbabwe

Finally, a success story for the critically endangered animal.

The ‘Immortal’ Plant Tells Its Tale

A plant with two leaves has the power to live up to 1,000 years in a rowdy desert...is there really such a thing?

Using DNA to Reunite an Orphaned Elephant with her Mother

After villagers found a tiny elephant wandering alone, scientists began the search for her mother using DNA matching technology.