Smog and pollution have always been a major issue for China, but several cities in northeast China have been severely disrupted by smog this week. The Chinese city of Harbin was forced to close schools, roads, and businesses on Monday and Tuesday (October 21-22) as smog levels soared. In Harbin and elsewhere in northeast China, the smog level hovered at such an extraordinary high level that it disrupted travel and the daily way of life. Smog levels remained high on Wednesday.
Harbin, China is a home for nearly 10 million people. With a large demand for growth and expansion, pollution levels have soared over the past decades. On October 21-22, 2013, smog levels were so high that cars were stuck on the roads because a thick “fog” was preventing them from driving, even with headlights. Hospitals in the region saw a 30% increase in hospital admissions with people feeling ill. With high pressure in place and stagnant conditions, the smog was not going anywhere across northeast China. Visibility was less than a quarter of a mile, and in many areas, you could not see your house if you stood 20 meters (yards) away from it.
According to the Washington Post:
The measurement of fine particulate matter in the air known as PM2.5 reached 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter in parts of the city, 40 times what the World Health Organization considers safe.
China Daily agreed, saying:
In some areas such as Hongqi Street and Heping Street [in Harbin, China], readings even reached 1,000 in the morning.
A level above 300 is considered hazardous, while the World Health Organization recommends a daily level of no more than 20.
According to CNN on Tuesday, Harbin Taiping International Airport was closed with 250 flights canceled on Monday alone. Major highways and interstates were shut down as well. Many of the Chinese in that region had to wear masks to simply breathe and avoid illnesses.
Matt Daniel is weekend Meteorologist for 13WMAZ (CBS) in Macon, Georgia, and founder of the blog Athens GA Weather. He's a self-described "big weather and music geek" and has produced weather content for CNN, MSN Weather and EarthSky. He has a passion for helping to keep people safe when severe weather strikes and says if you don't have a NOAA Weather Radio ... you should get one.