NASA Imagery of Beijing Smog

NASA/GSFC, MODIS Rapid Response -

This is quite a depressing picture. The main reason (for me) why it is so depressing, is because I live underneath that grey cloud. This is an image captured by NASA on February 20th 2011, showing very clearly the blanket of pollution that sat over Beijing throughout the beginning of this week. Click here for the HighRes.

According to NASA

The featureless gray-brown haze is so thick that the ground is not visible in parts of this photo-like image taken at 11:35 a.m. by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on NASA’s Terra satellite. At that time, a weather station at Beijing’s airport reported visibility of 1.9 miles (3.1 kilometers). Visibility dropped as low as 1.1 miles (1.8 km) later in the afternoon.

To be fair, it has appeared that there has been a significant rise in the number of ‘blue sky days’ since the new year. However, the smog still occasionally descends and smothers the city in a soot/black carbon haze. This week, it was present for a solid three days with Air Quality Indices off the charts most of that time.

This is not a new phenomenon for Beijing and a couple of years ago I was asked by the Asia Society and Mediastorm to contribute to a feature titled ‘Clearing the Air‘. It’s a really nice piece introducing the fundamental reasons behind air quality in China. It’s well worth a look.

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