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Map of global air-particulate pollution  (Source: Aaron van Donkelaar, Dalhousie University)
Industrial sector of this region has the highest concentration of particulates

Canadian scientists have developed a map of global air-particulate pollution using National Aeronautics and Space Administration satellite data, and it shows that China's air quality is very poor compared to the rest of the world. 

Aaron van Donkelaar and Randall Martin from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada created the map using satellite data because they believed ground-based detection would be "spotty" in areas or nonexistent. The data used for the map is from 2001 to 2006. 

The map of global air-particulate pollution shows fine particulate matter density worldwide through color-coding, where white and dark blue areas have the lowest concentration of particulates and dark red areas have the highest concentration of particulates. The reddest part of the entire map is Eastern China's industrial area.

Despite the fact that the data used for the map is from 2001 to 2006, The Wall Street Journal noted in July that China's air quality is getting worse, and has not improved since the time period of this data.

In fact, more recent studies, such as the research conducted by a team of scientists who studied air pollution along the Yangtze River Delta in China, proves that China's air quality is only getting worse. This particular study concluded that the Yangtze River Delta is one of the most densely populated areas in the world and the "fastest growing economic development region in China." The area has seen drastic increases in atmospheric emissions and energy consumption, which led the team of researchers to use the Community Multiscale Air Quality model along with an emission inventory to measure baseline concentrations in order to calculate health risks and construct control strategies.

Many health issues arise from poor air quality because fine particulates are capable of passing the body's cilia defenses and penetrating the lungs and blood. Bronchitis, cardiovascular disease and asthma are a few of the illnesses that can come from poor air quality. Through both of these studies, researchers can better understand what China is up against and can develop ways to counter it, saving hundreds of millions of people who live in this area from chronic disease.

This study was published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

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Deserts the main culprit
By bpurkapi on 9/28/2010 2:28:36 PM , Rating: 2
A quick glance at the map, shows that areas of desert have bad air quality. Look at Africa as the prime example that stretch of red is due to the Sahara. China's air quality is horrible, because it has the Gobi desert nearby, and a ton of coal power plants. Every year there are giant dust storms that ravage Beijing. Desert + Industry = Black Lungs.

RE: Deserts the main culprit
By Sazabi19 on 9/28/2010 2:39:25 PM , Rating: 1
No, asbestus = black lungs :P"

RE: Deserts the main culprit
By theArchMichael on 9/28/2010 3:23:04 PM , Rating: 3
At first glance, I'd say you're right. But, why wouldn't their be a substantial impact in the region of the mojave desert in california, the great sandy desert in Australia or the namibian desert in South Africa?

The last two places lack the population density and industry you stated in your post. But the West Coast of North America... under your assumption there should be much more particulate activity there. Also from the map it doesn't as though particulate matter is confined to the Gobi desert and it's immediate surrounding area. It also extends all the way past China's South Sea.

RE: Deserts the main culprit
By Aloonatic on 9/29/2010 7:59:33 AM , Rating: 2
I was thinking the same things as you an the OP.

I guess that it is probably significant that Australia is an (all be it very large) island, and California has both the gulf and Pacific not too far from it.

I know nothing about weather patterns and winds and such, so I can only speculate that the distances between the deserts in Africa and China and the oceans whist also being part of the the larger Eurasians/African land mass has an effect.

Indeed, if you look at that picture, it seems that there is a big swipe of pollution going from China to Africa, all along a big land mass, quite far from big oceans. Where as the areas that you point out are close to oceans and possibly stronger winds or winds that better clean the air naturally?

Just thinking out aloud, so I hope that makes sense :o)

RE: Deserts the main culprit
By Rugar on 9/28/2010 6:05:21 PM , Rating: 2
It's a semi-accurate statement, but you are looking at it somewhat backwards. The prevailing winds in the northern hemisphere travel east to west. Large dust storms in both the Sahara and the Gobi produce large increases in particulate counts, but these are blown to the west and north rather than to the east and south.

If you look at the map, the eastern parts of equatorial Africa show lower concentrations of particulate matter than the west. Once you cross the Sahara however, you'll notice a rapid increase in particulate matter consonant with the prevailing winds carrying dust to these regions. Eastern China on the other hand has no major dust source to its east and the authors are most likely correct that the source of the observed particulate matter there is anthropogenic.

As to the comment about why dust from the Mojave wouldn't effect the western parts of the US in the same way... two answers. 1) Size. The Mojave is about 1/2 the size of the Gobi and 1/15 the size of the Sahara. There just isn't as much area to make the same impact. 2) Wind. Off the west coast of the US, the cooler ocean waters provide an onshore airflow meaning that, locally, the primary wind flow pattern is from west to east. As this cool, moisture laden ocean air hits the Sierra Nevada range, it dumps it's moisture as rain and snow. Any particulates which are coming from the Mojave will be entrained in this precipitation and "scrubbed" clean.

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