Skip to navigationSkip to content
A paramilitary police officer wearing a mask stands guard in front of a portrait of the late Chairman Mao Zedong during smog at Tiananmen Square after a red alert was issued for heavy air pollution in Beijing, China, December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee - RTX2VRON
Reuters/Jason Lee
A familiar sight.
#AIRPOCALYPSE

A timelapse video shows a thick plume of smog burying Beijing in 20 minutes

Echo Huang
By Echo Huang

Reporter

Beijing is spending the start of 2017 with an old friend, smog.

On Dec. 30, the capital city issued an orange alert (link in Chinese) smog warning, just five days after it lifted its first red alert, its highest smog warning, of 2016. During that week of red-alert pollution, smog restrictions shut down highways and cancelled flights, trapping residents hoping to flee the choking city.

The new wave of pollution taking over the city was documented in a 10-second timelapse video. It shows just how palpable the pollution has been, as a thick yellow plume of smog creeped into and covered Beijing’s downtown in a haze.

The above video by Chas Pope, a British expat in China, soon went viral on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. Some were terrified, with one user remarking, “Looking at the video itself I am already unconsciously covering up my nose and mouth.” 

The smog is still lingering in the city, but a chilly wind is expected to blow it away on Jan. 4. The current Air Quality Index (AQI), a measure of pollution, in Beijing is at 411—an AQI above 100 is considered unhealthy—and the city has seen levels reach 596 in the past few days. On new year’s day, pollution levels in Beijing were beyond what the index could measure.

Subscribe to the Daily Brief, our morning email with news and insights you need to understand our changing world.