Via the South China Morning Post: Heavy smog back to choke northern China over three-day New Year holiday. Excerpt:
Heavy smog returned across northern China to disrupt the three-day New Year holiday that started on Saturday – only a week after China’s hazardous smog hit the region during the Christmas period.
Residents across the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area – China’s most urbanised region – and in Shandong and Henan provinces are living under the threat of a new round of heavy air pollution, which started on December 29 and is forecast to last until Thursday, the Ministry of Environmental Protection reported.
On Saturday, the reading of PM 2.5 – airborne particles measuring less than 2.5 microns in diameter that are small enough to enter lungs and most harmful to health – rose from the heavily polluted level of 200 micrograms per cubic metre to more than 400 micrograms per cubic metre in most areas of Beijing, according to figures from the US embassy in Beijing.
Meteorological Administration predicted that on Tuesday and Wednesday the concentration of PM 2.5 could hit 400 micrograms per cubic metre in southern Beijing and Tianjin and 500 micrograms per cubic metre in northern Henan and Hebei.
Smog and dense fog have disrupted traffic and many people’s holiday travel plans. On Saturday morning, sections of eight expressways in Beijing were shut down, while expressways in nine cities in Hebei were closed.
To prepare for this latest round of heavy pollution, 24 cities issued red alerts – the highest warning level out of the country’s four-tier colour-coded system – according to a notice released by the Ministry of Environmental Protection on Friday night.
As of 7:00 a.m. Sunday morning, local time, Beijing's air quality index is solidly in the "hazardous" range, with most stations reporting PM 2.5 counts in the 300s and 400s; a couple of stations are approaching 500. But Beijing has gone only to an orange alert.