NASA has share that the air quality in the Middle East and Asia has been terrible this winter. NASA monitors the nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels with the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on its Aura satellite, and has found that NO2 is a good proxy for pollutants:
Nitrogen dioxide is a key emission from the burning of fossil fuels by cars, trucks, power plants, and factories; the combustion of fuel also produces sulfur dioxides and aerosol particles. When the weather is hot and sunlight strongest, NO2 emissions usually lead to the creation of ground-level ozone. In the winter, NO2 is less likely to breed ozone, but it does linger for a long time and contribute to fine particle pollution. Year-round, it is a good proxy for the presence of air pollution.
So why is air quality worse during the winter than other times of the year? Colder weather means that people and power plants are burning more fuel to heat buildings, and thus, emissions are higher.
Treehugger reports that “many parts of China are also struggling with bad air quality this winter, including Beijing, just like last year, and most of the time. Things are so bad that the government there is mandating rolling shutdowns of factories to try to reduce the smog.”
The poor air quality in China should come as no surprise, as we recently reported that China’s air pollution levels are breaking records and reaching dangerous levels. So much so that the Chinese media has taken a stand on air pollution in China by calling on the government to take action against pollution, which according to the media, have reached dangerous levels in the capital city, which is home to around 20 million people.
According to the media, the air quality in Beijing reached 755 on an index measuring particulates of matter in the air. For an idea of how bad 755 is, know that the World Health Organization recommends a daily level no higher than 20 and a level of 300 is deemed to be dangerous. According to Zhou Rong, climate and energy campaigner at Green peace, 755 is the worst recorded air pollution in Beijing.
“How can we get out of this suffocating siege of pollution?” asks the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, in a front-page editorial, according to Reuters. ”Let us clearly view managing environmental pollution with a sense of urgency.”
The media’s sense of urgency is apt, as the the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health found that a particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers can cause cardiopulmonary disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory infection.
Photo by Leo Fung