Smog-stricken Beijing brightens up

2015-12-04 21:10
A woman uses her scarf to cover the mouth as she walks in Tiananmen Square during heavy pollution in Beijing. (Wang Zhao, AFP)

A woman uses her scarf to cover the mouth as she walks in Tiananmen Square during heavy pollution in Beijing. (Wang Zhao, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Beijing - Blue skies have returned to the Chinese capital, Beijing, after the wind picked up, bringing in cold and dry air from the Russian steppe.

Beijing's air quality worsened towards the end of November, culminating in an air quality reading of 611 parts per million. Particle pollution is incredibly hazardous to health, and even more so at these extraordinarily high levels. The World Health Organisation says any reading greater than 300ppm is hazardous and its scale doesn't go beyond 500 - so 611ppm is off the charts.

Beijing's surrounding geography makes it prone to high levels of pollution during spells of settled weather. Pollution from power stations, industrial activity, and transport all collects over the plain with nowhere to go.

The government issued an orange alert on Sunday, requiring industrial plants and construction sites to either cut back or shut down work.

It was something of a relief, then, when the wind blew over the mountains and swept the city clean late on Tuesday. Visibility in the city on December 1 was below 100m and headlights were necessary at noon. Twenty-four hours later, the sky was gorgeously blue and visibility was greater than 30km.

Curiously, it wasn't as cold either, despite this being Arctic air, as the sun could now shine through. The previous smoggy days had wallowed around freezing, but after the change, dawn brought in warming sunshine.

This improvement in fortunes was brought about by a cold front, which did what its name implied, elsewhere in North Asia. The Korean peninsula suddenly got colder and saw snow; Pyongyang has been sub-zero since Wednesday and Seoul received its first proper snowfall.

Japan's two main islands have felt the change, too, with substantial rain in western Honshu, snow in the mountains and yet more snow in Hokkaido.

In fact, it has been raining and getting steadily colder in Fushiki, Toyama prefecture, on Honshu's west coast since Tuesday evening. Obihiro, in Hokkaido, now has 23cm of snow on the ground, despite being only 38m above sea level.

At the end of the front is a storm centre where the heaviest snow has fallen. Khabarovsk is just over the Chinese border and across the sea from northern Japan and is in the eye of this storm. It has been enduring a blizzard and now has 19cm of snow on the ground.

Winter weather has arrived in northern Asia and is unlikely to retreat until spring. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that Beijing will remain free of smog. Indeed, settled winter weather can bring the worst conditions.

Read more on:    china  |  weather  |  pollution

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.