Framework of visualising and analysing urban transformation features responding to Covid 19 pandemic

Lixia Chu, Jeroen Nelen, Lukas Höller, Hülya Lasch, Dirk Schubert, Carola Hein, Christoph Lofi

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterScientific

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Long-term exposure to ambient air pollution is one of the main public health concerns worldwide. Exposure to air pollution is highly related to a range of diseases including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, such as lung cancers, asthma, diabetes, irregular heartbeat, stroke and obesity [1-3]. The outbreak of the pathogenic agent of coronavirus disease 19 (Covid-19) has led to a large number of deaths worldwide, and previous studies have pointed out how the long-term exposure to air pollution may have an impact on its high death rate [4]. Moreover, the hospitalization rate and infected population numbers are central indicators for lock-down policy-making, indicating whether the local medical system is able to handle the increasing infected population number through its available intensive care facilities. In fact, predicting hospitalization is vital for authorities and policymakers. We hereby hypothesize that high air pollutants concentration leads to a rise in the hospitalization rate under the influence of Covid-19 outbreaks. We attempt to predict such hospitalization numbers for past data by means of a task-specific optimized machine learning model, after we integrate social, economic, cultural, and other environmental features in future with an ongoing project we are conducting. While such a prediction model cannot directly be used for predicting the future development of the pandemic, analysing it still gives valuable insights on the influence of various environmental features had on it in the past.Air pollution is a mixture of a large number of chemical compounds such as CO2, CO, NOx, SO2, O3, heavy metals, and respirable particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10); the main sources of such pollutants are identified as vehicle traffic, heating systems, and industrial plants [5]. Previous studies focused on the relationships between the variables of pandemic with the air pollutants information. Among all the air pollutants, NO2 and respirable articulate matter are highly related to the pandemic variables [6-8]. In our research, we extract the air pollutants information (CO, NO2, CH4, SO2) from the Sentinel-5P TROPOMI sensor, and integrate it with open-access data on Covid-19 features (mortality, infection rate, intensive care rate, etc). The air pollutant data is processed from the Sentinel-5P data catalog provided in Google Earth Engine. We therefore aim to ascertain the relationships between hospitalization and air pollutants concentration with the incidence of Covid-19. In particular, our ultimate research purpose is to develop a machine learning model to uncover the relationships between a mixture of features derived from air pollutants and Covid-19 related information, at municipality scales in Germany and the Netherlands. The relationships provide important clues on understanding how air pollution may affect on hospitalization rate and other features of Covid-19, through the evidence of potential low hospitalization or low mortality with better air quality. The output will deliver key information regarding public health effects and control of emission in Germany and the Netherlands.
Specifically, on a temporal scale, we aggregated daily Covid-19 data and four air pollutant measures into weekly measures. On a spatial scale, the air pollutants were aggregated based on each municipality in Germany and the Netherlands to match the Covid-19 features. A choice of machine learning models were trained and evaluated on historical data (from March of 2020 to Oct of 2021), using features comprising weekly hospitalizations, death rate, and infected rate, tropospheric NO2 concentration, CO, SO2, CH4 concentrations. In addition, a post-processing analysis using machine-learning explainability methodologies was carried out to mine potential relationships between hospitalization attributes and specific air pollution concentration features. By processing municipalities as separate spatial entities, the results are intended to highlight hospitalization disparities and pollutants’ effect diversities among different geographic areas.
By highlighting the relationships between air pollutant concentrations and incidence of Covid-19 with the hospitalization rate, and illustrating the hospitalization disparities among municipalities, our results provide key information regarding policymaking on urban emission control and public health at municipality level. When integrating other Covid-related features, our models could offer support to policymakers on effective lock-down decisions and health system management.
Keywords: Air pollutant, Covid-19, supervised machine learning models, Google Earth Engine.
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Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2022
EventLiving Planet Symposium 2022 - Bonn, Germany
Duration: 23 May 202227 May 2022


ConferenceLiving Planet Symposium 2022


  • Air pollutant
  • Covid-19
  • supervised machine learning models
  • Google Earth Engine (GEE)

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