How bad was Beijing's smog this morning? This picture being circulated on Twitter by New York Times correspondent Edward Wong and CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciuto basically says it all:
(The screen, which normally displays advertisements, wasn't explicitly set up to act as a surrogate sunrise. It does, however, recall the fake skyline set up in Hong Kong to replace the haze-shrouded real one.)
This is the worst Beijing's had it since 2013's "airpocalypse," with levels of dangerous small particles in the air surpassing 500 micrograms per cubic meter for the first time this season. Not only is that enough to limit visibility to several hundred yards -- leading the city to close four major highways -- it's also over two dozen times the amount considered safe (25 micrograms). At its peak, around 4 a.m., the pollution measured as high as 671 micrograms per cubic meter. It's forecasted to last until late Friday morning.
As the yellow fog descended, the state news agency announced that it shut down 8,347 heavily polluting companies last year in northern Hebei province, the country's biggest steel producer. Pollution from plants in Hebei often spreads to Beijing. A report released by a group of NGOs and research institutes, however, found that the emissions levels reported by most coal-fired power plants and factories exceed government regulations "most of the time."