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Shanghai residents share images of record-breaking pollution

Take a look for yourself—if you can see through all that soup.


Miles Klee

Internet Culture

Posted on Dec 6, 2013   Updated on Jun 1, 2021, 12:25 am CDT

Several hours ago, the people of Shanghai, China, awoke to a morning so choked with pollution that the air quality index rose above 500—off the chart, that is. Visibility in the noxious, record-setting haze was cut to 50 meters, flights were grounded, and cars ordered off the road. 

For context, the air quality index today in NYC was 50 at it’s worst. We hit a record “high” in Shanghai. 509!! #thisischina @air

— reham habib (@rehamhabib) December 6, 2013

Two separate Reddit threads emerged with frontline accounts and snapshots of the eerie, post-apocalyptic atmosphere that shrouded the city. In the first image, the photographer reports, “the building you can barely see is about ¼ mile away.”

“Shanghai citizen here, could see smog fog inside the school corridors today,” another redditor reported, while another confirmed that many people had gone home early to avoid breathing the hazardous admixture. Even in a photo taken the previous night, dense fields of dust are illuminated by the streetlights.

More photos, a few of which resembled abstract Rothko canvases more than actual cityscape, rolled in on Twitter.

上海市内は午後から大気汚染さらに悪化。先日、ツイした写真から少し引いて撮影したものですが、暗くなってきたことを差し引いても遠くはほとんど見えません。上海市の数値では、PM2.5は午後4時現在で277μg/m3です。 pic.twitter.com/pWiTXRrpZv

— 隅俊之/toshiyuki sumi (@spreadarms) December 5, 2013

上海、外、真っ白です。このうっすら見えるビル群の真ん中に、東方明珠塔があるはずなのに全く見えない。 pic.twitter.com/joRNfFiMhT

— 前川ヤスタカ (@ysmkwa) December 6, 2013

中国の広範囲で有害濃霧 小中学校など緊急閉鎖も – MSN産経フォト https://t.co/Z2ZvzYbtbP 有害物質を含んだ濃霧のため、視界が悪化した中国上海市=5日(共同) pic.twitter.com/Z0EDJdhl7O

— KOKUMINnoKOE (@KOKUMINnoKOE) December 6, 2013

Bad as it was—the AQI sat well above the range where healthy individuals start to experience wheezing, coughing, and other symptoms—you couldn’t say the weather caught people by surprise. For some, it just made the daily commute a little more dramatic.   

上海の電車\(^o^)/ やばわろwww pic.twitter.com/D9lGkkwgPW

— Sumiゑ (@sumiumi718) December 6, 2013

Photo by Marc Osborn/Flickr

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*First Published: Dec 6, 2013, 2:01 pm CST