In Pictures: China is Enveloped in Thick and Dangerous Smog

By Jamie Condliffe on at

Beijing is currently choking on a thick smog, with air pollution in the city over 20 times the safe levels defined by the World Health Organisation. This is what it looks like.

In Pictures: China Is Enveloped In Thick and Dangerous Smog

As the world’s governments gather in Paris to decide the future of our planet, there’s an all too obvious reminder of pollution hanging above Beijing. The thick brown-yellow smog doesn’t just look horrible, either: the air quality index was measured by the US Embassy in Beijing on Monday to be 611, for what’s referred to as small particulate matter.

In Pictures: China Is Enveloped In Thick and Dangerous Smog

For some context, in the US, levels above 100 are considered unhealthy; levels above 200 indicate that the entire population is at risk from suffering health effects; and above 300 the entire population is at risk of ‘serious’ health effects. The US scale tops out at 500.

In Pictures: China Is Enveloped In Thick and Dangerous Smog

Authorities in China have blamed unusual weather for the smog, which is at least partly true. Temperatures are currently much lower than usual for the time of year in northern China, which has seen the poor light coal fires and the more wealthy switch on central heating powered by electricity from coal-fuelled power stations. Those emissions, combined with stagnant air pressure, have led the smog you see in these images.

In Pictures: China Is Enveloped In Thick and Dangerous Smog

Those same authorities issued an orange air quality alert on Sunday, leading to factories shutting down production in an attempt to reduce emissions. It’s hope winds will pass across northern China in the next few days and help clear the smog.

In Pictures: China Is Enveloped In Thick and Dangerous Smog

In Pictures: China Is Enveloped In Thick and Dangerous Smog

In Pictures: China Is Enveloped In Thick and Dangerous Smog

In Pictures: China Is Enveloped In Thick and Dangerous Smog

In Pictures: China Is Enveloped In Thick and Dangerous Smog

All images by AP