People living in Beijing and Shanghai have been fortunate these last couple years as they can access hourly pollution updates. But the scope was very limited, until late last year when China released a new website which offers hourly updates of pollution data for dozens of sites all over China. It’s a great new resource — but it is very difficult to use, especially for expats who cannot read the Chinese-only website. So, I’ve created a quick how-to guide. (Special thanks go to Vance for his pollution blog at livefrombeijing.com).
Step 1: Go to the CNEMC website. The main website, from the China National Environmental Monitoring Center, is at http://188.8.131.52/air/. You first need to install Microsoft Silverlight, which it will ask you to do. It will take a bit of time but is necessary. Once Silverlight is installed and you wait for the page to reload, you first click through the blue arrows on the bottom right of the screen; finally, you will see a big map of China; simply use the mouse to click on your city, and it will zoom into even more data. For me, the most relevant site is the Agricultural Exhibition Center (农展馆), which is just around the corner from me (near the US Embassy).
Step 2: go to your city, read the PM10 column. Once you’ve clicked on your city’s closest station, a window will pop up with different columns; the crucial column is the last one, which is circled in red in the below image. This is the data for PM10 pollution, which means “particulate matter of 10 micrograms.” This is the most relevant number for pollution’s immediate health effects. (The other two columns are for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. It would be even better to have PM2.5, but that will be in a future update, I’ve heard). Here’s a snapshot of the website:
Step 3: Multiply that number by 1,000. The data is in milligrams per cubic meter; to use the online calculator, you need to get to micrograms per cubic meter. So, the Olympic area (奥体中心） PM10 above of 0.035 gets converted to 35.
Step 4: Go to AQI converter website. The most useful site I saw was here at the AIRNow AQI Calculator, from the US EPA. You use the pulldown menu to use “PM10 24-hour average”. Then type in the number where it says “Enter the Concentration” and click on “Calculate”. Voila, you get an AQI underneath. It also very nicely gives you the Air Quality category as well as health effects. For example, our 35 above gets an AQI of 32, which is in the “Good” range. Here’s an image of the AQI Converter page:
You can read more detail about the AQI here. Please note that technically, you’re not supposed to be using a one-time reading to assess what the calculator is calling a 24-hour AQI. Still, I think it’s the best tool we have right now, and for most of China, it’s an enormous leap forward.
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