2013 Harbin smog
Location of Harbin
|Date||21–25 October 2013|
A dense wave of smog began in the city of Harbin, China and the surrounding Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning provinces on 20 October 2013. Unseasonably warm temperatures with very little wind across northeastern China coincided with the initiation of Harbin's coal-powered municipal heating system. Record densities of fine particulates were measured in the city. In Harbin, the airport and kindergarten through middle schools were closed for three days. All highways in Heilongjiang were closed.
In Harbin, the levels of PM2.5 particulate matter rose to 1,000 micrograms per cubic metre, worse than Beijing's historic highs. Visibility dropped to 50 metres (160 ft) and authorities grounded flights and closed more than 2,000 schools. The smog eased on 25 October 2013 and had completely dissipated by the 28th due to a cold front that had moved in from Russia.
Officials blamed the dense pollution on lack of wind, burning of crop waste in farmers' fields, and 20 October start-up of Harbin's coal-powered district heating system. Harbin lies in the north of China where winter temperatures can drop to −40 °C (−40 °F), necessitating a six-month heating season.
Air pollution in Chinese cities is of increasing concern to China's leadership. Particulates in the air can adversely affect human health and also have impacts on climate and precipitation. Pollution from the burning of coal has reduced life expectancies by 5.5 years in the north of China, as a result of heart and lung diseases.
Visibility was reduced to below 50 m (160 ft) in parts of Harbin, and below 500 m (1,600 ft) in most of the neighboring Jilin province. On Fa Yuen Street in Harbin, visibility of less than 5 m (16 ft) was reported.
Daily particulate levels of more than 40 times the World Health Organization recommended maximum level were reported in parts of Harbin municipality. The smog remained as of 23 October, when "almost all monitoring stations in Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning provinces reported readings above 200 [µg/m³] for PM2.5". PM2.5 is the amount of particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter in the air, with the World Health Organization recommending a maximum 24-hour mean of 25 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m³). On the morning of 23 October, PM2.5 measurements in Harbin had fallen to an average of 123 µg/m³.
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