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12/12/2013 01:16 pm ET

China's Smog Problem Is So Bad You Can See It From Space

In case you hadn't heard, parts of China are dealing with major air pollution issues right now. Officials in Shanghai closed schools and halted construction last week as pollution soared to hazardous levels. Concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) reached 602.5 micrograms per cubic meter on Friday, according to the Associated Press. The World Health Organization's safety guideline is only 25 micrograms.

Along with creating health concerns for residents of Shanghai and other cities, the air pollution has also dramatically reduced visibility. Beginning Jan. 1, Chinese aviation authorities will require pilots of domestic flights into Beijing to learn to land using auto-landing technology, rather than divert to another airport during periods of low visibility. Only 18 percent of flights currently leave Beijing on time, reported AP.

Despite the obvious drawbacks to off-the-charts air quality and incredibly low visibility, state-owned media outlets have tried to put a positive spin on the pollution.

The satellite image below was taken on December 7, 2013 and shows smog stretching about 750 miles from Beijing to Shanghai. Clouds or fog are white in the image, while pollution appears as gray swirls, NASA explained.

china space

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