China's Air Pollution Is So Awful You Can See It From Space

Just in case you'd gotten used to those now-ubiquitous photos of smog-choked Chinese cities, NASA has managed to up the ante with the image up above: yes, that's China's air pollution, as seen from orbit. 

The image was snapped by the space agency's Terra satellite on January 7th during the country's most recent spate of severe pollution. The bright white spots are clouds and fog. The wispy gray haze reaching from Beijing to Shanghai is polluted air. That's about 750 miles of smog which, as NASA notes, is about the distance from Boston to Raleigh, North Carolina. 

"On the day this natural-color image was acquired by Terra, ground-based sensors at U.S. embassies in Beijing and Shanghai reported PM2.5 measurements as high as 480 and 355 micrograms per cubic meter of air respectively," NASA writes. "The World Health Organization considers PM2.5 levels to be safe when they are below 25."

(h/t BloombergBusinessweek)

Jordan Weissmann is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic.


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