Severe smog has reduced the visibility of a northern Chinese city to less than half a football field.
Rebecca Cruise, the Assistant Dean of the University of Oklahoma’s College of International Studies, says Chinese authorities blame the increase on two things: a lack of wind, and more smoke in the air.
“When you have wind, that can move some of that pollution, or disperse it a little bit,” Cruise says. “It's also the time of the year when many of the crops are finished, and they're now burning them to replace them in the coming year.”
Authorities in Harbin near the Russian border said primary and middle schools and some highways were closed this week. At least 40 flights from its international airport had been canceled or postponed.
Cruise also says it’s a very cold part of the year in Northeast China, so the coal-based municipal heating structure is adding to the pollution as well.
“This is something that they deal with every year, having to kind of decide 'Are we going to worry about pollution, or worry about heat?'” Cruise says. “And it just seems to be the perfect storm this year."
The density of fine particulate matter used as an indicator of air quality was more than 24 times higher than the level considered safe by the World Health Organization.
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