New satellite images show shocking extent of Earth's air pollution

New satellite images show the shocking extent of air pollution across the world.

The findings, released in a video by the European Space Agency (ESA), show varying levels of carbon monoxide (CO) on a rotating globe.

The animation shows parts of Asia, Africa and South America with the highest levels of pollution, displayed as a bright red colour.

New Zealand appears to fall below a yellow haze, which wraps around most of the globe.

An image released by the ESA also maps nitrogen dioxide over Europe, showing concentrations in the Netherlands, northern Italy, western Germany and parts of Spain. Nitrogen dioxide is most commonly a result of road traffic.

Nitrogen dioxide levels in Europe.
Nitrogen dioxide levels in Europe. Photo credit: European Space Agency

Satellite Copernicus Sentinel-5P was launched six months ago to monitor air quality around the world, and is also gathering data on methane and aerosols.

It is still preparing for service, the ESA says, but already can capture 20 million observations each day, mapping an area of 2600 kilometres at once.

"Data such as we see here will ultimately be valuable for helping to put appropriate mitigation policies in place," ESA director of Earth observation programmes Josef Aschbacher says.

"These first images offer a tantalising glimpse of what's in store."