Nothing but grey skies: Beijing set to see its first smog of the winter
- Air quality set to move into ‘heavily polluted’ territory after heating systems turned back on China’s capital
Thick smog is set to blanket Beijing and the surrounding north China region next week, with air quality readings expected to move into “heavy polluted” territory, according to official forecasts.
A moderate haze that arrived in the Chinese capital on Sunday is expected to thicken due to a lack of wind, with the worst days likely to be Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, the National Meteorological Centre said.
Levels of PM2.5 pollution – the fine particulates with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less that pose the greatest danger to health – are set to rise above 200 micrograms per cubic meter, or “heavily polluted”, it said.
The forecast smog will be the first for northern China this winter and comes after public heating systems were switched on last week.
The news of its arrival is likely to raise concerns that the government, which has been trying to reduce the region’s dependence on coal-fired heating, might have put the battle against pollution on the back burner while it tackles a trade war with the United States.
Besides Beijing, the cities of Shijiazhuang, Baoding, Tangshan and Langfang in Hebei province will be the worst affected, the observatory said.
Pollution in the capital is set to peak on Wednesday, Beijing Daily reported on Sunday, citing information from the Beijing Environmental Monitoring Centre. Pollutant levels will rise to level five on a six-tier scale, it said, with higher numbers meaning worse pollution.
Conditions in Beijing should start to improve on Thursday with the arrival of strong winds and a cold front that will cut through the dense air, the report cited the centre as saying.
As well as a sharp drop in temperature, the front will bring blue skies and some light rain to the city, it said.
The cold front will also mean icy conditions for the residents of Urumqi, capital of west China’s remote Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, while mountainous areas to the north of the region will see heavy snows and even blizzards, the meteorological centre said.
Under guidelines from China’s environment ministry, children, the elderly and people with heart or lung problems are advised to stay indoors during periods of heavy pollution, while everyone else should try to reduce the amount of time they spend outdoors.
The central government launched a nationwide campaign to tackle air pollution in 2013, and efforts to improve air quality in northern China intensified last year after inspectors closed down tens of thousands of heavy polluting factories, coal-fired power plants and steel mills.