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Satellite images show clear Venice canals during coronavirus lockdown

Kelly McLaughlin , Business Insider US
 Apr 18, 2020, 04:36 PM
Venice Canals in 2019, left, and 2020, right
European Space Agency
  • Satellite images released by the European Space Agency show a change in Venice's canals from 2019 to 2020.
  • The photo from April 19, 2019, shows the tourist hot spot's canals filled with boats.
  • The photo from April 13, 2020, shows Venice's waters are a darker blue, and the canals are less trafficked.
  • The change is likely because of Italy's coronavirus lockdown that went into effect in March to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.
  • Less boat traffic during the lockdown has allowed sediment to settle at the bottom of the waterways.
  • For mores stories go to

Satellite images released by the European Space Agency show how clear Venice's canals have become since the city went under lockdown amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The ESA released images of Venice on Tuesday taken by Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission - one from April 19, 2019 and another from April 12, 2020 for comparison.

The Grand Canal and the Giudecca Channel appear nearly empty in the 2020 photo, compared to the year prior, where boats filled the waterways. Further from the islands, Venice's waters appear to be a darker blue hue this year.

Italy announced a country-wide lockdown in March, to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. The country, which is one of the hardest-hit in the world, has faced 168,941 Covid-19 cases, and 22,170 people have died from the virus.

Venice lagoons after in 2020, top, an 2019, bottom.
European Space Agency
Venice is usually a highly-trafficked tourist location in the spring, but since going under lockdown, the city has been quiet. The lockdown drastically reduced movement on the area's waterways, which are usually filled with gondolas, water taxis, and cruise ships.

According to the Italian news agency, ANSA, Venice was almost empty over Easter.

In March, residents started sharing photos of the clear canals, saying were seeing fish, seaweed, and swans on the waterways.

Here's what the canals looked like in December 2019, before the the coronavirus lockdown went into effect:

A group of scuba divers from Venice's gondolier association collect waste from the lagoon city's canals as part of a clean-up operation in Venice in December 2019.
REUTERS/Manuel Silvestri
Here's what the waterways looked like in March 2020, just weeks into the coronavirus lockdown:
A general view shows clear waters of the Grand Canal near the Rialto Bridge in Venice on March 18, 2020, as a result of the stoppage of motorboat traffic, following the country's lockdown within the new coronavirus crisis.
The office of Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro told CNN in March that less traffic on the waterways drastically altered the color of the water in the canals, likely because sediment has finally been able to settle.

"The water now looks clearer because there is less traffic on the canals, allowing the sediment to stay at the bottom," a spokesman said. "It's because there is less boat traffic that usually brings sediment to the top of the water's surface."

The spokesman said the air quality has increased, too, thanks to fewer motorboats on the canals.

According to the ESA, the lockdown has helped improve air quality across Europe.

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