Smog and poor air quality in Beijing, China

November 30th, 2015 |

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color images [click to play animation]

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color images [click to play animation]

The sequence of 5 daily Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images shown above are centered on Beijing in northeastern China — these images (viewed using RealEarth) showed the transition from the Beijing area being sunny and snow-covered on 26 November to enshrouded in dense smog on 30 November 2015. The smog exhibited a distinct gray-colored appearance, in contrast to the brighter white clouds and snow cover. Much of this smog was driven by the burning of coal, both on a local level and by regional power plants (as discussed in this Capital Weather Gang blog post).

The corresponding daily time series plots of surface weather data at Beijing Capital International Airport (below) revealed that the surface visibility remained below 1.0 statute miles for extended periods. Although not indicated on the 26 November plot, the surface visibility began at 19 statute miles on that day, before the wind speeds became 4 knots or less beginning at 10 UTC and the visibility eventually began to decrease.

Daily time series plots of Beijing surface data [click to play animation]

Daily time series plots of Beijing surface data [click to play animation]

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