Airpocalypse

Red Alert for Beijing Air Looks More Like Orange on NASA Map

Michael Animation, Data & Graphics, Photo December 23, 2016 Leave a reply

北京12月中的空气污染红色警报再次牵动了大家脆弱的心肺,但是在NASA的空气污染色阶图中,北京天津似乎也就是个橙色级别,再看看石家庄才叫红得骄傲呢。NASA原文及滚动条互动图点这里

Smog was particularly bad in cities like Beijing, which declared a five-day pollution “red alert” on December 16. The Chinese capital reached dangerous levels of more than 400 micrograms per cubic meter. In Shijiazhuang, capital of the Hebei province, airborne pollutants surpassed World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines by 100 times on December 19. (A safe level is 10-25 micrograms per cubic meter of PM2.5, according to the WHO.)

Fine, airborne particulate matter (PM) that is smaller than 2.5 microns (about one thirtieth the width of a human hair) can cause lung damage. Industrial practices like fossil fuel burning and agricultural fires produce most PM2.5aerosol particles. Despite efforts to curb these emissions, China continues to struggle with its air quality.

From space, the smog appears gray. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured a natural-color image (top) of northeastern China on December 22, 2016. Heavy, gray smog shrouds parts of the country, while the brightest, whiter areas are likely clouds or fog. The second image shows the severity of haze as measured by satellite, with deepest reds indicating the most affected areas. The map is based on MODIS measurements of aerosol optical depth—how much sunlight the aerosol particles prevent from reaching the ground.

For full NASA post and interactive slider image tap here.

Web & Video: China Air Daily

Michael Data & Graphics, Film, Photo, Video December 1, 2015 Leave a reply

Flying back between Berkeley, CA and Beijing, China on graduate school projects, an idea struck me to record air quality with a picture every day, initially out of a friend’s apartment window. Then that project grew and took roots at Asia Society and now China Air Daily tracks five cities in China and the U.S. on an hourly basis.

Here below are two videos about China’s notorious air pollution issue I produced with Emmy Award winning studio MediaStorm:

 

Here below is the homepage of the site, a visual record of daily air quality in China and the U.S., featuring Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, New York City and Phoenix:

pic chinaairdaily home

Homepage of China Air Daily, click/tap to visit full site

I write in The Atlantic: A Stunning Visualization of China’s Air Pollution

The debate over whose statistics are most “accurate” can be confusing — how to sort out truth from spin? That’s why a group of us at the Asia Society decided to launch China Air Daily, a website that provides up-to-date information on air pollution in the country’s largest urban sectors, and even compares them to major cities from elsewhere in the world.

I write in Foreign Policy: Watch China’s Silent Assassin in Action

For the past eight years in Beijing, as well as four years spent in other Chinese cities, I have recorded impressions of daily air quality by taking photographs from fixed points. I thought I had seen the worst smog a developing country had to offer — then came the so-called “Airpocalypse” of January 2014. Finally, in March 2014, the Chinese government declared an all-out “war against pollution.” For a few months, as my photo archive suggests, Beijing’s air quality appeared to improve. But this winter, it is getting bad once again:January 15 saw an AQI measurement near 500.

Forbes: How Dirty Are China’s Skies? A Daily Photo Archive Shows The Truth

Air quality improved after the Olympics, and there have been good days since, but why August was this bad is something of a mystery. Trying to get to the bottom of the air-quality-in-China issue is the work of China Air Daily, a web site produced by the Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations. The site is produced by the journalist-programmer Michael Zhao. China Air Daily publishes near-hourly snapshots several times a day. You can see how blue it was for most of March 2011.

Forbes: Asia Society Has Opened Window on China’s Environment

One of its useful devices is the China Air Daily site, which allows Web users to track the sometimes awful state of smog in three Chinese metropolises, as well as two in the U.S.

Last but not least, I blog about the issue on ChinaFile.com and here are some slides from the blogging:

China Air Watch