What We Burn Creates an Eerily Navigable Map of Earth

Tim Wallace
Feb 15, 2019 · 4 min read
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Nikhil Sharma at Descartes Labs created a global composite of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO₂) over August and September of 2018. Here, the highest levels of NO₂ are shown first and the rest fade in slowly. No, this is not just another population map.
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Local hotspots of NO₂ around India and China
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Korba, India in September (Sentinel-2). The plume you can see here likely contributed to the global composite above. This image is roughly 20 miles wide—that’s a lot of industry!
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Local hotspots of NO₂ around Africa
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Over half a million points where fire was detected by NASA FIRMS in August and September of 2018. (Map rendered in the browser using mapshaper.org)
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Local hotspots of NO₂ around North America
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Local hotspots of NO₂ around Europe, North Africa and the Middle East
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The land and water areas in this global NO₂ composite were toned separately in order to highlight patterns in each area. Maritime routes pop, like those in Southeast Asia, and global wind patterns appear.

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