China has seen continuous improvements in air quality since 2013, when pollution levels hit a record high, with another drop in “smoggy days” recorded last year, according to meteorological data.
Starting in 2000, the country began to experience a steady increase in pollution, reaching a peak in 2013 when it experienced 13 rounds of smog, data from the National Meteorological Center show.
However, since the central government introduced its Action Plan on Air Pollution Control and Prevention that year, the smog has lessened in intensity, according to a bulletin on atmospheric environment released by the center on Feb 11.
“The improvement in air quality in 2017 is the most noticeable,” said Zhang Hengde, the center’s senior engineer.
Monitoring stations across China recorded just 27.5 “smoggy days” on average last year, 19.4 days fewer than in 2013, he said, adding that the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region saw the biggest change: from 71.1 days down to 42.3.
Chinese meteorological centers use the term “smoggy days” to describe poor air quality based on factors such as PM2.5 (fine hazardous particulate matter), visibility and humidity. But its measurements can differ from the indexes used by environmental protection authorities.
Long-term data from the center show the country has also seen a steady decrease in sandy weather since 2010.
Zhang attributed the progress last year to government efforts to curb pollution as well as the high number of windy days, especially in winter months. “Credit should be given to the effective controls on pollutant emissions,” he said.
Simulations based on the center’s meteorological monitoring show measures to reduce pollutant emissions nationwide managed to cut the daily average PM2.5 concentration by 43.5 percent last year compared with the level in 2013.
The findings are similar to information released earlier by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, which said the average PM2.5 concentration had fallen by 44.2 percent over the same period.
However, Zhang warned that despite the positive trend, the weather could still worsen in some regions during specific periods, so controls must be continued.
“We will continue to cooperate with the environmental protection authorities to provide monitoring and forecasts on air pollution,” he added.