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Satellite images showing the mean tropospheric nitrogen dioxide density changes over China. Photo: NASA

Pollution levels have plummeted over China and it's "partly related to the economic slowdown following the outbreak of coronavirus," NASA said in a statement accompanying the release of satellite images demonstrating the nitrogen dioxide (NO2) changes.

Driving the news: The outbreak caused China's factory activity to fall to a record low of 35.7 in February from 50.0 in January, officials said Saturday, per the Financial Times. NO2, a key contributor to smog and a major health hazard, is the gas that's emitted by motor vehicles, power plants and other industrial facilities.

NO2 levels in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak. Photo: NASA
This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event."
— Fei Liu, air quality researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Zoom in: NASA scientists first noticed the reduction in NO2 pollution in January near Wuhan, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak. They then noticed changes in pollution levels across the country as the virus spread.

The big picture: Fei Liu, an air quality researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, recalled seeing a fall in NO2 levels over several countries during the economic recession that began in 2008, but that was more gradual.

  • Lunar New Year celebrations may have contributed to the big drop, but Liu noted the levels had not rebounded — as happened when there was a dip in Beijing during the 2008 Olympics before they rose again after the Games finished.
  • "This year, the reduction rate is more significant than in past years and it has lasted longer," Liu said. "I am not surprised because many cities nationwide have taken measures to minimize spread of the virus."

Go deeper: Coronavirus hits China's tech manufacturing

Go deeper

Dominion sends cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell

Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems on Monday sent a cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell over his spread of misinformation related to the 2020 election.

Why it matters: Trump and several of his allies have pushed false conspiracy theories about the company, leading Dominion to take legal action. It's suing pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell for defamation and $1.3 billion in damages, and a Dominion employee has sued Trump himself, OANN and Newsmax.

Off the Rails

Episode 5: The secret CIA plan

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer, Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 5: Trump vs. Gina — The president becomes increasingly rash and devises a plan to tamper with the nation's intelligence command.

In his final weeks in office, after losing the election to Joe Biden, President Donald Trump embarked on a vengeful exit strategy that included a hasty and ill-thought-out plan to jam up CIA Director Gina Haspel by firing her top deputy and replacing him with a protege of Republican Congressman Devin Nunes.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Empire State Building among hundreds to light up in Biden inauguration coronavirus tribute.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.