A new study has revealed significant changes in air pollution levels in the Middle East, with economic crisis, humanitarian catastrophe, and war being contributing factors. High resolution satellites have been collecting data from major cities since 2005 and the results have flown in the face of previous predictions of the region’s emissions.

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Damascus, Syria

Prof Jos Lelieveld, lead author of a recent report in the Science Advances journal writes, “From 2005-10 the Middle East has been one of the regions with the fastest growing air pollution emissions. This also occurred in East Asia, but especially in the Middle East. This was related to economic growth in many countries. However it’s the only region in the world where this upward trend of pollution was interrupted around 2010 and then followed by very strong decline.”

Related: Researchers are using NASA satellites to track air pollution over major cities

For instance, the influence of the Islamic State in Baghdad and central Iraq has led to a decrease in nitrogen oxide (NO2) emissions since 2013, a trend similarly observed in Egypt since its government’s overthrow in 2011. Greece has also experienced a 40 percent decrease in emissions since 2008, related to its sharp economic breakdown. Other declines in the region, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, are thanks to improvements in air quality controls.

Syria’s emissions over the major cities of Damascus and Aleppo have sharply declined 40-50 percent since 2011, the year of the nation’s uprising and ongoing civil war. Interestingly, a 20-30 percent increase in NO2 emissions was noted in neighboring Lebanon in 2014, which coincides with the arrival of 1.5 million Syrian refugees to the area – who make up one fifth of the population. The report states, “It is tragic that some of the observed recent negative NO2 trends are associated with humanitarian catastrophes.”

Via The Guardian

Images via Shutterstock (1,2)