This week, multiple newspapers suggested that satellite maps may indicate the mass burning of dead bodies in areas of China affected by coronavirus.
The Sun reported that “Satellite maps in recent days have detected alarming levels of sulphur dioxide (SO2) around Wuhan”. Other titles such as Metro and the Express included claims that high numbers of dead bodies being cremated might have been the cause of excess sulphur dioxide.
These claims are wrong. The maps the claims are based on are not satellite images, and they do not show real, observed data on current levels of sulphur dioxide.
NASA, which provided the data in the first place, told Full Fact that they are simply forecasts based on weather patterns and historical information about SO2 emissions.
As such, they could not possibly show an unexpected event such as a mass cremation. We have emailed all four newspapers that published the story asking for a correction.
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