CTB and a New Shade of Darkeness

I have been worried about CTB going into darkness over the last few months and weeks. Well this week a different kind of darkness rolled into Shanghai. As you may already be aware from the news reports pollution levels have been extremely high. Beijing has had the most attention with bad air, but due to its location in a valley it is more likely to have trouble since the pollutants easily get trapped and settle. Shanghai is closer to the sea and pollution is not always as severe. I hardly noticed it before that is until this year. It was here, but rare.

When you think about the population of the city (close to 24 million permanent residents) and the increasing numbers of cars on the road it is no wonder the city has pollution. I started to count ‘blue sky days’ like at home where we count ‘smog days’. The sun comes out, but it is always hazy. Few days are completely clear with blue sky and clouds. Now some of that is also the moisture in the air due to the location of Shanghai on the East China Sea and part of the Yangtze River delta. The city is also divided by the Huangpu River. Summers are sticky humid and winters are mild, but so damp you swear it was 5*c or more colder than what the thermometer shows.

Sun is dull through the smog

Sun is dull through the smog

I have noticed the pollution more in the last 12 months or so. With increasing levels our school has also started to monitor conditions and days where levels are high asthma students stay indoors (orange level or unhealthy for sensitive groups according to the US consulate in Shanghai) and other outdoor activities are limited. Some days when the levels are highest (red –unhealthy) we treat it like a rainy day and everyone stays inside. The worst day this week was red or maybe even the highest level purple. I could feel it in my nose and throat. From my classroom we could barely see clearly across the street, never mind the skyline of Shanghai. The sun was not visible and you felt like we were in a thick fog; darkness even in the middle of the day.

Straining to see the skyline and able to look directly at the sun.

Straining to see the skyline and able to look directly at the sun.

Thank goodness something changed and the next day things improved and we were back to orange levels. Not great, but at least bearable. The temperatures went up a bit too this week and I wonder if that helped as heat was turned down, or off. The Economist.com is citing that a colder winter (I think earlier too) and different and unlucky wind patterns have contributed to the woes of many cities across China seeing an increase in pollution levels.

Many locals wear face masks and they are sold along with hats, mitts and scarves come winter. I was told they were for cold weather, not pollution. I bought one this year and it makes a difference to block the wind when driving the scooter. Now sales are increasing as people are wearing them while exercising, walking or just out of doors.

I didn't snap a photo of the worst smog this week, but I found this example from Reuters.

I didn’t snap a photo of the worst smog this week, but I found this example from Reuters.

According to http://www.shanghaiexpat.com/community/index.php/2007/12/05/air_quality_smog_and_shanghai?blog=5 smog has actually improved over the last few years with many factories moving inland and to other cities. They claim the dust and particulates in the air come from things that are being burned as well as construction which is extensive in Shanghai.

It has been a busy return to work after Christmas and today I decided to open the drapes, enjoy the view and veg out inside. Good excuse staying indoors and lounging in my jammies all day, don’t you think?

Stay tuned…

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21 thoughts on “CTB and a New Shade of Darkeness

  1. Goodness I wouldn’t do very well there!

  2. Johnny

    Hi Diana
    Make sure you use your face mask,and send a picture to the weather network. I think people should know the truth about China and the pollution they dump into the atmosphere. No its not from the construction!

    • I do on my bike. I am going to have to start even walking around. It is hard though since my glasses steam up! When I am driving they don’t as much.

  3. Informative article but oh so sad. For all concerned but especially the children. Be well.

    • It does seem scary, but different articles I have read compared it to the west back in the 70’s and 80’s. It seems it needs to get bad before it gets better. Slowly different restrictions will come into place easing the problem. Warning are going out and I am not sure who heads them, but our school has made rules for indoor play on bad air days. Many locals wear the masks, but us expats find them silly. I wear mine when on my bike. Sometimes fashion doesn’t count 😉

  4. Enjoy your time indoors relaxing!

    • Yes I will. Shame too since yesterday was so mild! I walked to the shops and did a few errands so I was out for a short time. If the air was cleaner I would have opened up the windows and let the warm spring like air in.

  5. Freda Goulet

    That seems like such a significant problem…stay well.

    • It was another bad day today. It was dark for most of the day and smelled like burning. It is scary when you can’t see the sky. Weird eerie fog, but different. It started to rain around 5pm, so that should help clear the air.

  6. Beautiful photos; sad subject matter. One wonders what it will take for China to address its environmental issues….

    • Thank you. I should put up a photo from a clear day to compare! It has been getting worse the last few days too. Although everything you read is saying the governement is putting restrictions on things to combat the problem and it takes time to show results. I don’t understand why it is SO bad this year. I have been here 3 years and this is the worse I have seen it…. and never this long!
      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      • I retired from the oil/chemical business. I can assure you, China could do more. But the publicity of late will put some pressure on.

        • Lets hope. It has been about 3 weeks of poor air. All week the kids at my school had indoor recess. When air quality is bad we keep them in. At this rate they will be in everyday.
          Someone said the other day we shouldn’t see air. We can; it is grey and some days smells bad. Can’t be good.
          Thanks for the comment.

  7. Amy

    Wow! So very interesting to read your first person perspective! I have been sharing your posts with my colleagues. Much more interesting than the Toronto Star!! Kudos!

    • Thanks Amy 🙂 It was bad here for 3 weeks and then it just cleared. 3 days of clear skies, but today looks smoggy again. Lots of people are getting colds and we think it is all related. It is so dull and grey everyday. When people talk about 50 Shades of Grey I don’t think this is what they were referring to 😉

  8. I have a mask too. Finally bit the bullet!

  9. Oh wow! That is one scary smog. From a distance it looks like fog. The last time I went to Shanghai I didn’t get to see this much polution. That was 8 years ago. We went on a cruise at the shanghai bay and the lights were amazing. I guess it only took some time before pollution catches up witn progress. Beautiful capture of the Sun….

    • I have been in Shanghai 3 years now and I never saw such a sight. It did look like fog, only thicker, darker and smellier. It burned your eyes and nose a bit too. I hope it clears up and we don’t see such a thing again anytime soon.

  10. Pingback: Shanghai Shrouded in Smog | Canadian Travel Bugs

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