Beijing Smog Is So Bad That The Only Way To See The Sunrise Is On Tiananmen Square TVs

By Josh Lieberman on January 17, 2014 2:45 PM EST

beijing sunrise
This pretty Beijing sunrise is a sight residents can no longer see. Smog is currently so bad in the city that the sun is completely obscured. (Photo: Flickr: kofoed)

Take a look at the Beijing sunrise above. Pretty nice, isn't it? People in Beijing, however, can't actually see the sunrise. That's because the smog is so thick that the only way to see the sun come up is to watch the virtual sunrise on LED screens in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

The strange sight of a broadcasted sunrise (see a picture here) marks the latest in a series of "the smog in China is so bad that..." stories. In November, the smog was so thick that closed-circuit TV cameras were rendered ineffective; a month later, we learned that China's smog can even be seen from space. And in July, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that China's smog is shaving 5.5 years off of average life expectancy.  

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One traffic coordinator at a Beijing intersection told the Daily Mail that the smog was so bad yesterday morning that he couldn't even see the tall buildings across the street from him. "The smog has gotten worse in the last two to three years," said the man, who was only identified by his surname, Zhang. "I often cough, and my nose is always irritated. But what can you do? I drink more water to help my body discharge the toxins."

Air quality readings for PM 2.5--tiny air particles that reduce visibility and can penetrate the lungs--hit above 500 micrograms per cubic meter yesterday morning, the first time that's happened this winter. At 4:00 AM, a monitoring post at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing showed a PM 2.5 reading of 671. The World Health Organization considers a PM 2.5 reading of 25 to be safe--meaning that China's smog yesterday morning was about 25 times worse than the safe level. (At least it's not as bad as this time last year, when China's PM 2.5 levels hit a shocking 993 micrograms.)     

Air pollution in China is at its worst in winter because of increased coal burning. Wang Anshun, the mayor of Beijing, announced a plan yesterday to decrease air pollution. The measures include lessening coal use by 2.6 million tons through a reduction of coal burning boilers in the city, banning heavily polluting vehicles and devoting 15 billion Yuan (about $2.5 billion) for research to improve air quality.

In October, Beijing enacted a number of emergency measures to reduce smog. Private vehicles were only allowed to be used on alternating days, construction sites were halted and factories were forced to cut emissions by 30 percent through limiting production.

If they can cut enough, maybe one day the people of Beijing will be able to see the sun again. Until then, they'll have to watch it on TV.

READ MORE:

Dead Fish In China: 220,000 Pounds Of Poisoned Fish Surface In Fuhe River

Scientists Convert Algae Into Crude Oil In One Minute -- A Process That Takes Nature Millions Of Years

Super Green Commuting: Air Purifying Bike Will Filter Pollution, Release Clean Oxygen For Rider

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