OK, Xinhua found an IOC official Gilbert Felli who ’said the low visibility doesn’t necessarily mean the air quality is bad’, you can watch the video here (foward to 4:00); he seems to have caught a cough, probably it is that Beijing air. So he is actually saying that with air quality such as the day before (28 July, official API 96) no events would be have to be rescheduled. That official number translates into around 142 microgram/m3; the BBC has an independent measurement for that day of 134 micrograms/m3; that is 168% above the WHO guideline of 50 microgram/m3 (24h short-term exposure). Check out that BBC site, they have daily pictures there, with the PM10 measurement- excellent stuff! As far as i can see, these BBC pictures show an undeniable correlation between haze and PM10. If you happen to know Gilbert Felli, please show this to him. And please also to this Chinese official: “Clouds and haze are not pollution. This kind of weather is a natural phenomenon. It has nothing to do with pollution,” said Du Shaozhong, deputy director of the Beijing municipal bureau of environmental protection. So we had only 63% of humidity in the air (27 July, see Google weather snapshot below) and a PM10 of 269 microgram/m3 (BBC measurement) and this guy tells us the haze has nothing to do with pollution. Today, with a humidity of 80-90% there is no haze, magico!
The BBC still mixes up API and PM10 in this article (i know it is confusing; i did not invent it!); but it is just more easy if they stick to their own PM10 measurements and compare to the WHO standard; that tells us enough. It is clear that the official API numbers for 24-25-26-27 July are suspiciously low, max API 118, while the BBC gets PM10 of over 250 on 3 of those 4 days (yes, 5 times the WHO guideline), that translates into an API of just over 150. Just remember 2 numbers: the WHO guideline of 50 micrograms/m3 (green line in graph), and the limit of 150 micrograms/m3 that the Chinese use to define an acceptable day (’blue sky day’) - what translates into an API of 100 (red line in graph). Chinese officials often refer to API of slightly less than 100 as ‘good’ but actually in their own standard it is only ‘moderate’ (see table upper left).
Above is a graph with the official APIs, with Tianjin and Shijiazhuang (nearby cities) in the background, showing that Beijing doesn’t do better than them despite the traffic restrictions. I didn’t have time to add the BBC measurements; they would have been off this scale (150+) for 24-25-27 July.
The Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau (BJEPB) was a bit in a panic after the horrible weekend, and no rain on Monday, so the declared that extra measures are being considered, closing down more factories in Beijing, Tianjin and other nearby cities, and get 90% of the cars off the road- that would create true logistical challenges, without even a big effect on the pollution levels…
On Tuesday 29th it started raining, causing an immediate drop in API. It has been raining every day since, and the below forecast shows rain on Friday, but the again sun and heat; which will allow the pollution to build up again, if it doesn’t rain for a couple of days. Also the wind is coming in from the South-East, while we need clean air coming from the North.
To conclude, i also insist to mention that the authorities have made many efforts to improve the environment of Beijing as they had promised the IOC many years ago; Greenpeace has released an evaluation report earlier this week which is quite positive in fact: Beijing has done better than Athens, but not as good as Sydney. Among the positive points are: increase in renewable energy, EURO IV emission standards, new subway lines etc. Regarding air pollution, there has been progress in the reduction of SO2, CO, NO2, but PM10 remains a concern.