My wife and I left the grey bubble of Wuhan to travel to Beijing during the National Holiday. We went at a time when most all of China travels to Beijing to see the history and grand architecture of the city. We were warned that there would be swarms of people, and indeed it was very crowded, but also a wonderful experience. What was shocking to us immediately was the quality of air. During the entire trip we had blue clear skies with very little haze. Clear skies meant we could peer out of train window to count an endless amount of Nuclear Power plants doting the landscape.
One thing to realize is that there is always a haze or smog in China and the sky meets the land with a grey mix of colors and never a delineating contrast of blue and green. Green the color takes on a completely different existence in the landscape. The land is saturated with muted values of army fatigue green. The haze of ozone and particle emissions disturbs natural saturation or recognition of color in China.
Our delight in clear sky’s continued for 2 full days as we visited the Great Wall and Summers Palace, but as we approached our 4th day Beijing a curtain of thick grey smog fell on the city. It was by all senses the most apocalyptic scene I have ever witnessed. It was for a moment frightening how dense the smog was and was thick enough to block mid-day sun.
My conclusion was that all of the factories in and around the city had shut down for several days around the holiday, but all resumed and ramped up production to make up for lost time.
Baoding is just outside of Beijing and has been rated (on a year average-2014) to have the poorest air quality of any city in China. We could just see Baoding through the smog as we stopped at the city’s train station on our way home. There are other cities in China that are possibly more polluted do to coal production, water toxicity, or underground coal fires. I have an app that gives real-time results of air sampling around China. It rates the air quality from good to severely polluted and provides warnings about exercise, if you should wear a mask, or even go outside.
The numerical rating for severely polluted is from 300 to 500 and one our last 2 days in Beijing the rating was 301 and rising.
Toxins in the air are PM2.5 (fine particles at 2.5 micrometers or smaller), PM10(fine particles at 10 micrometers or smaller), Sulfur Dioxide, Ozone, Carbon Dioxide, and other VOC’s. Recently Wuhan spiked at 404 on a 500 scale of air pollutants.