End of an era: last pre-Olympic snapshot (updated)

Opening ceremonies tomorrow, August 8. This is the view as of 10am, August 7, from our same old window in the Guomao area of Beijing. I suspect that a lot of this actually is "mist," very high humidity, etc. That is, it can't be that much more polluted than it was 36 hours ago, when things looked much better, as shown here. Mainly completing the chronicle, for the record.


Here is the way the same area looked on a nice day about six months ago. I understand that if I'd been here this previous weekend, I could have seen even clearer views.


Three more views of pretty blue-sky Beijing days in the same general neighborhood are: from early this year here and from late last fall here and here. Ongoing air coverage available on the Asia Society's interactive site, here. Now I will give the window-camera a rest.

UPDATE: For those interested in the actual science of the Beijing air-quality situation, I also highly recommend the ongoing charts and explanations on Dr. Kenneth Rahn's site, from the University of Rhode Island.

This one-page Power Point slide, updated daily, shows the trend in pollution readings in the weeks leading up to the Olympics. (Warning: it is legible only if viewed in Internet Explorer, not FIrefox or Safari. Don't even bother without IE.)

This longer presentation  explains the readings, including why Beijing's situation is so tough and how much difference the emergency shutdown order for cars and factories actually made. Its trend lines also clarify this important point: while hazy skies don't necessarily mean polluted air, as Chinese officials ceaselessly point out (it could be fog, it could be mist), in harsh reality the days when you can't see very well are also the days with the most dangerous air. (Thanks to Robert Kawaratani.)

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

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