China’s air pollution: mapped, color-coded and in real time

By Ella Wong, September 9, 2015

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Last month scientists at Berkley Earth released a study that calculated air pollution contributes to 1.6 million deaths a year in China, far more than previously thought. They based their findings on four months of air quality data taken from 1,500 monitoring stations across the country from April to August last year. Here’s how those four months of pollution look on a map:

If that wasn’t enough to satisfy your morbid pollution curiosity/map fetish, the Berkley Earth scientists have now unveiled an interactive Google map that allows you to track PM2.5 air pollution across much of the country from one hour to the next. You can hover your mouse over different parts of the country to see the exact AQI (air quality index) measurement and its corresponding color-coded health category based on US EPA standards.

Here, for instance, is how Beijing's air compared to the rest of the country when the Victory over Japan military parade kicked off in Tian’anmen Square on September 3 at 10am Beijing time:

China and Beijing air pollution during military parade

And here’s how it looked 24 hours later:

China and Beijing air pollution 24 hours after military parade

Check out the map here: explore which cities have the cleanest skies and go back in time to see how pollution varies depending on the time of day or year.

Long-time pollution watchers in China may be familiar with a similar real-time pollution map on, which essentially presents the same data albeit in a more cluttered form, but with the added bonus of allowing you to compare the air quality in other parts of the world:

China real time air pollution map on

If that doesn’t have you planning your next vacation, we don’t know what will.

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