Some of the not-so-great side effects of China's industrial boom became evident this past weekend as Beijing experienced hazardous levels of air pollution. Now NASA's Earth Observatory has posted satellite imagery revealing the true extent of the mess.
Dubbed by many as the "airpocalypse," the giant cloud of pollution choked the streets of China's capital city, forcing factories to shut down and prompting the government to advise citizens to stay indoors. Earlier this week NASA posted images of Beijing as seen from space before and after the pollution cloud reached the city on January 14. The space agency also posted an interactive image map that allows you to slide back and forth to compare the two images.
While this weekend's pollution made headlines around the world, those who keep up with current events in China know that heavy pollution in Beijing has been a problem for a long time. I personally know several expats who claim that after just a few weeks of living in the city they picked up what is known as "the Beijing cough" as a result of the off the charts pollution.
In the wake of this airpocalypse, Chinese news agencies reported a spike in heart attacks and lung-related illnesses, clogging hospitals and resulting in a shortage of doctors. How this will all play out in terms of China's central role as America's primary gadget manufacturer is unclear, but this week's events have put the entire world on notice that China's pollution problem is far more serious than many casual observers had ever suspected.
You can try out NASA's interactive pollution image comparison tool here.