In the last two decades, China's economy has been developing rapidly. The energy source that has driven the growth is coal. Scientists estimate that as much as 70 percent of the country's energy comes from the burning of coal. The growth of the economy has come hand in hand with both urbanization and the ability of more individuals to own their own cars. With less strict vehicle emission standards than those in developed countries, cities have become increasingly crowded with cars, while skies have become increasingly thick with pollution.
This image from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite on February 12, 2005, illustrates the air pollution problems China faces as it continues to develop. The east coastal plain, ringed on the west by several rugged mountain ranges, can seem like a bowl filled with hazy air. Pollution gets especially bad over major cities like Beijing and Tianjin, as well as along the Yellow River where it flows eastward out of the mountains.
The high-resolution image provided above is 500 meters per pixel. The MODIS Rapid Response System provides these images at additional resolutions.
Incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels like coal and wood leads to a build-up of haze in eastern China, where mountains and weather patterns can trap it for days at a time. This Terra MODIS image is a comparison of a hazy day and a relatively clear day in February 2005.