China’s hazy October… as seen from spaceBy Dominic Dietrich Oct 31, 2013 3:29PM UTC
China’s chronic air pollution problems hit the headlines again this month, with Beijing and Harbin particularly hard hit. Here are some amazing satellite images that show the true extent of China’s choking smog.
In the latter half of the month, the northern Chinese city of Harbin hit the headlines as it was smothered under a pall smog. The city of more than 10 million people was largely shut down.
From space, the situation is clearly explained in this October 21 image.
Harbin was not the only city affected in October. A day later, another picture showed the extent of grey smog over eastern China.
Haze affected several parts of China at a number of points in October. This October 3 image from NASA offers a broad perspective. The red dots represent fires observed using the satellite’s “fire-sensitive infrared radiation band,” explained NASA’s Goddard Earth Sciences Data and Information Services Center, which provided the image. “Smoke from the fires is visible as a greyish haze as it accumulates on the central coastal plain,” the center wrote.
The situation seemed much the same by October 12 when NASA’s Aqua satellite flew over eastern China and further catalogued the haze. NASA explained that “near the center of the image, dense clusters of red hotspots cover much of the rich agricultural land in Henan and Anhui Provinces, while other clusters are seen in Hubei (to the south) and Hebei (north). In many locations, especially in the central region, streams of smoke pour from these areas, and are blown northwest by strong prevailing winds.” Again, the red dots represent fires.
In this image, Beijing and Tianjin are both smothered.
In October, Shanghai announced a clean air policy, flagging an overhaul of coal-burning practices, changes to public transportation, limits on industry and even a banning of certain vehicles on days of heavy pollution, among other measures. In September, Beijing announced its own clean air initiative. The capital’s 2013-2017 plan looks to drastically cut coal consumption, increase clean energy use and remove or limit some polluting industries.
Factors such as industrial pollution, the burning of coal and agricultural products, car emissions and specific topographical and meteorological factors can all play a part in producing periods of smothering smog.