Air Pollution as Seen From the Skies
From Mt. Etna to China to the Sahara, these striking satellite images of air pollution are from both natural and man-made causes
- By Sarah Zielinski
- Smithsonian.com, April 20, 2010
Chinese cities have some of the worst air quality in the world. Much of the country’s electricity comes from burning coal, which releases millions of tons per year of sulfur dioxide and particulates into the air. China's coal tends to be of a lower quality than what is burned in the United States and produces higher sulfur emissions. In the eastern part of China, geography and weather can exacerbate the effects of pollution: mountains in the west trap smoke, dust and other particles over the eastern plain, where, under certain meteorological conditions, the haze becomes trapped for days. Nearly all of the approximately 600 million people who live in China’s cities, out of a total population of 1.3 billion, breathe this filthy air.