The haze today is pollution. Even with regular blue sky days the cars and construction are destroying this beautiful city. Check out the link below on current air quality around China.
On another note. If we have had water shortage problems for a decade how will building 20% more residential units without having additional access to water be feasible?
I see Chengdu is much improved since I was there two weeks ago. It's only BAD today!
Higher elevation and air pollution i think makes for a nasty combination. Wuhan pollution is much worse than here but at lower elevation did not seem to bother me as much. They use to say that Mexico City with higher elevation and bad pollution was a deadly combination for elderly.
I notice they call a level of 151 "Lightly Polluted". In Toronto they call a level of 35 serious!
795 in Urumqi o_o
i wouldn't want to be there right now.
Interestingly it doesnt actually appear that bad today here in Urumqi. In fact it looks better than the other day when it was around 250. Assuming the reading is correct, I guess there is not a direct relationship between 2.5 PM pollution and visibility.
I came back here after several winters away. I had high hopes as this year nearly all of the coal- fired heaters have been changed over to natural gas. Early on in the winter I really though there was a difference, but since December it's as grim as I ever remember. This will be my last ever winter here- life really is just too short to breathe this crap.
Whats kind of depressing is that if you drive 20 minutes out of the city the sky is perfectly clear and blue. But when its -20 its not like you can go out for an afternoon picnic.
The worst pm 2.5 readings for any city in the usa last week was a 172 in Provo Utah which is in the mountains. Difference is the rest of the world outside china consider a reading that high to be unhealthy for all people and over 200 is considered very unhealthy. I live on a hill overlooking all of kunming and many days it looks very smoggy in the morning, but then the wind comes up and helps clear the air. Today the haze just got worse as the day went on.
Right now I am in Shandong, Jining. The last two weeks have been horrible. Sometimes the AQI is as high as 800. These days I have been wearing a respirator when I go outside. AQI of 150 is probably considered a good day here.
At least in Kunming you don't have to worry much about toxic fumes blowing in from the west. In East china we get all the nasty shit blowing in from central china.
@ Bad Boy i have been using the link you posted for monitoring air quality in china. Contrary to what many think and would argue about the air being good in Kunming the readings do not lie. When the air calms in the evening here in Kunming the pm2.5 readings begin to rise and reach peak readings during rush hour in the morning. The world wide health organizations all agree that even a short exposure to elevated PM2.5 can cause severe health affects even for healthy people. Kunmings PM2.5 readings everyday at sometime far exceed what is considered healthy. The seemingly daily winds are the only thing that cleans the air and then readings drop into the good range. Daily i now seem to wait for the winds so i can open the windows and get some fresh air and do my physical conditioning for the day. For comparison people in Hong Kong last year were very upset with how badly there air quality had slipped. Ours is very comparable many days. My wish is that someone will read this post and show me i am mistaken.
At the time of looking at the data (100.06 hrs 2/22/13) BJ is 32, KMG is 149.
This does not follow that the air in BJ is better than that in KMG this morning.
It is likely that either there are too few testing stations, the data is not being averaged, or sample data is being filtered.
From what I can see the numbers are not being used correctly either. The AQI is usually derived from taking the raw data for a range of pollutants, weighting them, combining them, and then producing a standard deviation (bell curve) and taking the AQI reading from the curve.
What we appear to be seeing from the website is the raw data and picking only the PM2.5 reading.
As the Chinese system only goes up to 300 and there are regulary readings in excess of double this number, there is obviosly a flaw in the system.
We have all seen where an idea or technology has been cut and pasted from the west and applied in China without understanding the rational. In EU and US the locations of sites for environmental testing are carefully chosen to give a representative average for an area. Spot sample data is only used to identify 'hotspots' for potential management/mitigation action.
As the Chinese system only goes up to 300 and there are regulary readings in excess of double this number, there is obviosly a flaw in the system.
If a country were trying to save face, it would have a more liberal scale. Therefore I am assuming that the sampling and/or monitoring and/or calculations are all cocked up.
The AQI for the US is not directly comparable with that for Mainland China. The Chinese scale only goes up to 300, the US to 500.
Having said all that, I am not saying that the air in KMG is good.
One good thing about the appalling smog in BJ recently.
There has been smog like this in other cities for years, and nothing was done. Now it has hit the capital, there is a good chance of new environmental legislations, and better enforcement. This will filter down to practices in other cities too. All will benefit.
We can but hope.
This happened after the LA smogs of the 1970s. This movement for change on vehicle pollution filtered down to other cities and states, and even other countries.
@tigertiger, i think you are saying that compared to the US and EU the readings in China are probably worse than reported. The US embassy in Bejing often reports worse ratings than the Chinese government. Their has been much talk about the safety of chinas food, and water, but in reality those 2 things will probably kill far fewer people in china than the direct results of air pollution in the future.
The increased death rate in the old due to pollution will make it easier to fund the pension system!
What I am actually saying is that the figures tell us very little.
You are correct that direct comparisons of readings would imply that China is worse than reported. If the reporting is correct 150 on the Chinese scale could be equivalent to 500 on the EPA scale. The website www.aqicn.info/?city=Chengdu does use the EPA scale, but should not be compared with official Chinese figures that have not been converted to EPA scale.
All we can really use the figures to do is compare historical figures for each site independantly. We cannot reliably compare two cities. What we could do perhaps is compare monitoring at the US consulate in Chendu with the roof ( I believe BJ monitors are on the roof) of the US Embassy in BJ, with the monitoring of the Ministry for Env Protection in Kunming.
I believe that the monitoring by the US Embassy in BJ is on the roof. I know of at least one test site in Shanghai at street level. The PRC EP monitors for other cities could be anywhere, could be a sample or an average of all test stations. We really don'e know.
There are lies, damned lies and statistics.
I am still not saying the air here is good BTW.
in beijing, the air is so obviously horrendously bad that i'm not sure why people bother with the readings.
in kunming, the fact that the sun is visible on most days is an indication that the air quality is far better than most chinese cities.
and to alleviate the ill effects of bad city air, it's good to get out of the city and into nature as often as possible (preaching to self).
Correction to my earlier post where I said
" If the reporting is correct 150 on the Chinese scale could be equivalent to 500 on the EPA scale"
This should say
... equivalent to 250 on the EPA scale'
Was chatting to Chingis last night. He told me the reading up in Urumqi was 1450, the worst he has ever seen it! Consider ourselves lucky!
You can go on and on about exact readings etc, but we know how the Chinese govt operate. They will simple put testing stations up where they know its going to suit the results they want, miss data points, manipulate data points and basically make the data completely unusable. You have to ask, that by making Kunming (the city in China known for its brilliant weather and clear air) look worse than it is, they may be making the rest of the cities look better than they are.
The only reliable measure you have is your eyes and your breathing and visiting the other places. My experience is that the difference between Kunming and most other major Chinese cities is like comparing night and day.
@:Blobbles, you're right, these statistics truly seem a bit silly. The reading and visibilty just don't match. I'd hate to be in Handan....338
I beg to differ with anyone who says the higher pm2.5 readings and clarity of air do not match. I live on the top of the hills straight north of city center and have a scenic view of the entire city of kunming. Many days when the readings are high the city is covered in a thick haze. This morning i cannot see any of kunmings taller buildings through the soupy haze. I am now sleeping with the windows closed at night so i can breath better and my eyes do not hurt so bad in the morning. I lived in Wuhan 3 years ago and its air quality was considered horrible and some days i see little difference here.
We might be in the same place. There were quite a lot of trucks on the road yesterday night until early morning, and construction noise here this morning. It's probably their time of the month
Rather ironic with Chinese Congress meeting now that air quality in every large chinese city is horrible right now. Also interesting that smaller cities who often have better air quality such as Luxi, Quijing, Liuzhou, Beihai,etc. suddenly no data has been available for those cities for the last several days. Almost all the cities usually in the green are now no data available. Not sure if Kunming actually is concerned about there air quality. With air quality not so good last few days would have thought they would have stopped the large prison on north west side from spewing the cloud of toxic smelling black smoke which drifts into the city almost every morning around 8.
how did the air quality deteriorate so rapidly?
here's some good news that may improve air quality? or maybe it's just rhetoric? ha ha.
China's new priority: social wellbeing over growth
China's government promised its people Tuesday deficit-fueled spending to fight deep-seated corruption, improve the despoiled environment and address other quality-of-life issues demanded by an increasingly vocal public looking for change.
Most of the pollution in Kunming comes from vehicles. The only way to reduce the pollution is to get cars and/or buses off the road. The subway will help, if it ever arrives.
People driving in such a manner that they do not create traffic jams and gridlock would help too, but it's still a matter of volume.
Some rain would clear the air as well, and also fill the reservoirs. Perhaps the government could legislate some rain.
@abcdabcd, I am sure the pollution from 14 million cars that hit chinese roads this past year has not helped. Kunming added a fair share of those new cars in china. All the tearing down of old high rises within the 2nd ring road has contributed a lot of dust and i can see the haze forming over the city after the winds decrease in the evening and the trucks are able to enter the city after 10:00pm. I am sure the drought has not helped the dust situation a whole lot.
If it is any consolation, in Shanghai 10 years ago they used to drive like they do in Kunming today. Then about 5 years ago the traffic density got so great that you could see that you were not getting further ahead (same car next to you even if you lane hop) driving like this. Once people realised it was a waste of time and money driving like a chimp, they stopped.
I feel that Kunming is rapidly approaching that traffic density where people start to figure out that if you obey the rules you get there just as quick, and you have fewer near misses.
I am also sure that the drought is not helping. In the last month the level of dust we are experiencing at home has shot up. My boogers are getting bigger and tougher too.
Alpage, Beijing has a fairly extensive subway system. It hasn't helped the pollution levels. There are still more and more cars on the roads each year and the air has gotten worse.
Yep, BJ definately has a car culture. If you have a car you have to be seen driving it. The subwas systems provide an alternative means of transport for those who do not yet have a car, usually.
Except for the environmentally concerned traveler, bad traffic seems to be the only real reason for people to seek alternative means if they already own a car. But this it true the world over.
Heavy vehicles in Kunming also still use old engines. With more constructions, more trucks are coming in, bringing a lot of dirty exhaust smoke and noise. At the intersection of Beijing Lu and Beichen Dadao at night, it's quite a party.
As the subway system expands in Beijing, there are also more factories opening near the suburban lines, especially Daxing and Shunyi, surrounding the city with thicker smog. Shunyi used to be a place with cleaner air and blue sky before more foreign companies were encouraged to open their factories along the newer subway line.
I'm wondering if there have been factories opening up recently in kunming that have contributed to what appears to me a very rapid and sudden decline in air quality which I find difficult to attribute solely to cars or construction. yankee?
No idea, sorry.
Very few factories exist in Kunming. Not that Kunming wouldn't love to have them, but logistics and lazy labor pool make Kunming a very unattractive place to open one.
However, the 2nd ring road and beyond is just one apartment construction site after another. Add in the growth in trucks and cars others have mentioned plus a drought, you have more than enough reasons why Kunming air is on the fast track downhill. Whether this can be reversed in the future, or we will end up like Chengdu will remain to be seen.
Many USA cities 30 years ago had the same or worse air quality that Kunming is facing now. Taking cars and trucks off the road did not seem to be a reasonable option at the time so all new car and truck engines were required to burn more cleanly or they had to install emission systems. Oil refineries where also required to start producing cleaner safer fuels. The same quality of diesel fuel used by trucks and buses in china can only be used by farmers in the USA. Also did not hurt that many of the more polluting industries moved operations to other countries most notably china. Even now the remaining coal burning power plants are being required to install equipment to greatly reduce their emissions and many are converting to cleaner burning natural gas. Even if China makes the promised changes it could take a long time to see measurable improvements. It took Denver a city with many similar physical characteristics a long time to clean up there air.
Its hard to know how bad PM2.5 readings were in the USA before they started recording them in 1999 www.epa.gov/airtrends/pm.html
But from the levels since then it seems that PM2.5 for the last 13 or so years is MUCH lower in the US than what we see in China.
With lack of data its hard to say if cities in the US had similar or worse air qualities to what we have in Kunming at the moment (PM2.5 is supposed to be 65 today in Kunming.)
The argument that China uses to explain its high current pollution is that it's a developing country, that like the west when developing they are in a high pollution phase, but I don't buy that argument.
The Chinese government learns quickly and spends to get the best technology when they want,, weapons, Subway systems, space program, trains, luxury state of the art cars etc
I think one of the main reasons why pollution is such an issue here is the government cannot make money out of it so they don't want to make the needed investments in clean technology.
If we compare countries, pollution is currently quite bad in China, but in terms of accumulated green gas, it's still very far from, say the US or the UK. And currently, the US is the biggest polluter per capita, four times ahead of China.
It is said that China is projecting to be the world's largest user of solar and wind energy. There will probably be quite a lot of coal burning to produce turbines and solar panels for the growing energy consumption of 1.4 billion people, and it will probably be decades before those sources of energy have an impact on the quality of air.
Pollution in China is more striking because it's currently happening, and unlike the West in development times, they have to produce not only for their billion people, but also for the entire world. We are also witnessing it right in the middle of it.
There have been leaps in some solar technologies. 6 years ago they were using flat panel water heaters on the roof. This is technology that has been around for decades. This was the best available at the time.
Now the tubes with the heat exchangers are common. These are very efficient, our neighbor's often boils and spouts steam. Such is the demand in China that the industry has leapt onto new technologies.
I firmly believe that this will drive technology in other areas too, including energy, and China will be a leader. Why? Because USA and EU have a legacy energy industry. It is not realistic to rip it out and start again. However, China has a lot of new infrastructure to build, including energy production capacity. There is an economic driver for development, not just the political idea to do it.
I agree with tigertiger, but here's a reality check.
China is the world #1 consumer of coal.
China is the world #2 consumer of oil.
With 20% of the world's population it would be difficult to NOT be a leader in those categories. I prefer status that put things on a per capita basis.
How much of China's ongoing pollution is going to revolve around the density of its people. China has 1.34 billion people compared to the USA's 314 million living in a country which is 300,000 sq miles smaller than the usa. Take out Alaska and the parts of China which are not very livable and the sizes are probably fairly equal. Then you need to take a very high percentage of China's population and place it in the eastern half of the country where in usa the population though more dense on the east coast states it is still more evenly spread out. Question for a scientist here, if 1.34 billion people were to all fart at the same time how much methane gas would that produce?
It's a master plan. Look up ' Agenda 21'.
Popn density is a big issue. The mass urbanisation forecast for China in the coming decades is a real problem.
The population density of some areas of China is very low. But the popn density of the cities is at least 3x that of European cities and in many cases 10x that of the US. This just concentrates the polution.
@Alex. I agree about the consumption. And consumption per capita is increasing (still not at EU or US levels). But now the proverbial is starting to hit the fan, there is a social and political will to change/invest in new technologies.
In the UK in the late 60s early 70s we had rivers covered in white foam, with not fish, around some of our industrial cities. In the 1940s we smog so bad that many people died. Result - we changed what we were doing. China is also begining to change.
Some European countries are already discussing moving back to nuclear power. Citing the many wasted years of potential R&D in this area. Japan, 3 Mile Island, Sellafield, are exceptioinal cases. The tsunami in Japan is a really exceptional case, and more of a case of where to site nuclear power.
Nuclear power is an insideous threat, that may last into the future for thousands of years. In the mean time we have the very real hazards of burning fossil fuels. Global warming, lung and other diseases, not to mention the 10s of thousands of people killed mining everyyear (and those who die from miners diseases).
The arguements against nuclear energy are very strong. So are the arguements against the continued use of fossil fuels. However, it is easier for a government to change how the industry produces electricity, than it is to control how the populace use it.
I too like per capita rankings. But then I realized the environment could care less if a mound of garbage comes from 100 small people or 10 big wasteful ones. Is that fair? Nope. Does Planet Earth care about human math? Nope. It just sees a large mound of garbage coming it's way.
i've read similar things that tiger mentioned - that china could potentially become the green technology leader.
but i'm not so sure it's gonna happen any time soon. i think there was some proposed project near shanghai a while back that was supposed to be some sort of futuristic model green city. guess it was too costly. but on the other hand, shenzhen and guangzhou and zhuhai might merge into the world's largest megalopolis. i'm sure the air will be wonderful there.
what's incomprehensible to me is that given the abundance of sunshine that there aren't solar-powered cars and solar-powered everything in this city.
If they keep their current rate of development, China would still need several decades to surpass the US and Europe in terms of total amount of gases that have contributed to pollution on the planet.
@yankee00, Is that true regarding global warming, or are the US, UK, and other countries just more honest regarding the data and admitting to the world what they have done. China is notorious for altering data for their benefit. I do agree the US has been a massive polluter and for a long time people were in love with anything in a pressurized spray can which they say has greatly led to the breakdown of the ozone layer. I see china at the point where the USA was 30 years ago and i hope they can learn from other countries mistakes and have the resolve to fix things. 30 years ago many people from rural america refused to visit larger cities because of the pollution, but i do not think that is the case so much anymore.
Or is @yankee00 talking about total gas production in a country's industrial history?
Even if they altered their numbers, they have only recently been manufacturing in mass. That would still be quite far from what the US, Europe and Japan have contributed. Pollution in the UK was also quite dramatic during the industrial revolution, but there was no social media at that time.
There is an area of the UK called The Black Country. Because all the walls of the building turned black with soot from the factories. Even one of the local moths started to evolve with a new darker colouration of its camouflage.
But you do have to ask, regarding the climate change argument, whether it matters. The US/UK/Europe are all countries that consume lots of goods, they exported the manufacture and now import the goods to a country which they knew had/have a highly polluting electrical goods.
If they were really interested in solving global warming, they would put restrictions on countries that have heavily polluting industries, but instead they import anything they want and, I believe, this is by design. Essentially they said "Our goods are too expensive and our industries too polluting. Lets export that industry to get cheaper goods and a better quality environment!"
@blobbles, i for sure agree, many of the heavily polluting industries in the USA got the EPA off there back by just moving the manufacturing to other countries which welcomed them with open arms even though the manufacturing process was going to cause great pollution to there environment. The steel cities in the USA like Pittsburgh and all along the southern great lakes cities air quality greatly improved when a lot of the production of steel moved to China.
Holy Crap, Chengdu's level now at 6:30 PM is 1008 !!!!! Classified as Hazardous.
Holy Crap, Chengdu's level now at 6:30 PM is 1008 !!!!! Classified as Hazardous.
At 9:00 p.m. Chengdu was merely "unhealthy" at 186, which I guess is some kind of improvement. Meanwhile, Kunming was at 101 which is rated as "unhealthy for sensitive groups". I guess that would be anyone who likes to breathe!
kunming used to be consistently under 50 i think. looks like the good old days are gone.
All this modernization is killing us. I miss the days when hi-rise buildings were few and road construction was few. I'm sick of all the dust that's flying into my face.
there was a farm in north yunnan for sale advertised on this site a while back for 800K yuan. if only i wasn't 799,999K yuan short, i'd buy it in a heartbeat.
Is the PM reading here in Kunming due to the dust? I know it probably doesn't make a difference, but it would be interesting to know how much of the pollution is dust and how much is toxic fumes from buses/cars/factories/trucks/people farting etc!
Thinking about it, the PM reading could be thrown out by the dust.
Lots of overseas channels reporting the dust storms causing a spike in pollution levels in BJ. Not sure of the mechanism for dust and PM readings, except that dust is particulate matter.
The PM reading will definitely include the dust, I just wonder what percentage it is. But I highly doubt whether they get down to that level of analysis. Would still be interesting to know though. We had rain in the south this morning and the air tastes / smells / feels all clean!
Rain did not help in north. My wife who rarely complains first thing out of her mouth this morning is how bad the air is today. If it smells and tastes bad and one wakes up hacking with a tightness in chest, most likely it is bad. The 2.5 readings are the smallest particulates in the air and from everything i have read are the most damaging to our bodies on both a short and long term basis. Especially for anyone with lung or heart problems. A good air purifier will remove most of the damaging substances from your home, then just need to deal with outside air.
If the windows were closed, yesterdays bad air was probably still locked in.
How many of you jokers smoke? 24 hours in Beijing at its very worst is the equivalent of smoking one cigarette. An evening breathing second-hand smoke on the terrace at Salvadors is like living in Urumqi for a month.
You don't think you get 2nd hand smoke in Urumqi? Sure smokers probably have little right to whine about air quality, but there are plenty of non-smokers such as infants and children where a bad day in Beijing might translate into chronic asthma.
One might also make a compelling argument that anyone who drives a car has little right to complain about air quality. But I'm not going to attempt to do that.
I thought I read a recent news report that said the air in Beijing last week was the same as smoking 21 cigarettes a day.
Do you believe a Japanese newspaper or an American expert?
I'm not questioning the right of smokers to complain about air pollution, just pointing out the futility of it when they deliberately suck poison into their lungs 20-odd times a day.
Also it's as well to keep a historical perspective. Beijing's air today is not as bad as London's in the 1950s and it's never likely to be so.
What is going on at night? Can't sleep with the windows open any more and the pollution always seems to get steadily worse in the early morning hours when it should get better. Factories? 155 today in Kunming, Chengdu 151, Shanghai 126 Beijing 59 Los Angeles 35. Not going in the right direction. :-(
Bad Boy Bad Boy whatja' gonna do when they come for you!
All the trucks drive at night, so it's not surprising that pollution is worst near dawn.
Overnight usually no breeze so fumes just hang towards ground. Actually gets the worst around 8 or 9 in morning because of everyone driving to work on top of trucks being on roads all night. This morning haze was worst i have seen this year. This past holiday weekend with fewer cars and trucks on road air quality was much better.
It seems like trucks are on the road earlier now (7-8pm)
I've made a trip near the north bus station yesterday night and it's a lot worst there, almost looks like a dust storm
I don't know where they're going or where they've been, but the trucks on LinYu Lu at night area almost in a continuous convoy. I rarely sleep more than 4 hours with the noise they put out, both from engines and unnecessary blowing of horns.
This morning at sunrise I could barely see more than about 1 km to the south with that thick haze, and at almost noon now it hasn't improved at all.
Truck noise is a real killer, especially if they hit potholes and drains. I have found that a white noise generator helps a lot with sleep.
There is a good one here www.simplynoise.com/ personally I use the brown noise, or mix this with an ambient loop (see below).
It takes a bit of getting used to, as it needs to loud enough to drown out other noise, but your brain can tune it out very quickly. White/brown noise is also useful if working on a computer in a noisy cafe.
There are other free downloads, but they are hard to find. Ambient noise loops and soundscapes can be effective, especially rain. Beware of the soundscapes that have thunderstorms.
I have also, in the past, hung a duvet up against a window which helps a lot. I have also seen acoustic foam in one of the decorators markets in Kunming. I think it was YunFang market. That at least means it is on the market. It is black and one side is shaped a bit like egg boxes.
11:00 am reading of 189 is getting pretty nasty. Haze is even worse than yesterday. I can see Haze between our complex buildings today for the first time. Seems a shame that a city that once prided itself in having some of cleanest air in China has allowed the air quality to diminish so rapidly.
Yep, it is really bad at DianChi today as well. Xishan is pretty obscure, even up close when I was on HaiGengDaBa.
On the way back from Dali yesterday we saw a number of forest fires, including a couple near Anning. That might explain why levels have been so high this week. And on top of that, they're digging big trenches to lay those pipes for the Burma oil line and it's been causing massive dust clouds for a long stretch of the highway. Not a good time to be in Kunming.
You could be right on about the fire Colin. The visibility of XiShan is down at Haigeng park right now. And there IS a smell of woodsmoke in the air.
Humidity levels increased dramaticly today as SE and E surface winds pushed up the Yunnan plateau up to kunming.
Eastern winds always brings in pollution and humidity.
We now go to Ollie Williams for the weather forecast. How does the weather look like Ollie?
Wow. At 111 this morning the AQI is much less bad.
you don't need a weatherman to see which way the wind blows.
and the weather in Iraq is Suuni in the south and Shiite in the north.
Kunming probably got worse those last few years but it didn't seem so bad to me (this being my first time there). Of all the places I have been to in Yunnan, Lijiang was the worst. Felt as bad as Beijing in 2006. I really had trouble breathing there and had to push my bike up every little hill. And it wasn't due to the altitude as I was coming (by bike) from Shangri-La.
Dali & Xiaguan were pretty bad too though I still manage to cycle around.
In comparison, the air in Kunming felt quite clean. Never had any trouble breathing. It is actually much cleaner than Paris (where I am at the moment). The day I went back, I had trouble breathing just walking up a (somewhat steep) street... In today's perfect weather, the sky goes from blue-grey to complete disgusting grey on the outskirts of the city... And we had the great idea of building our sport facilities just by the ring ^^.
Seriously, I can't wait to be back in Kunming...
Thursday, December 12
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