Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Particularly bad: interactive map shows extent of air pollution

Particularly bad: interactive map shows extent of air pollution AirVisual
02 Dec
2016
New 3D maps reveal the extent of a near-invisible threat: microscopic pollutants

With billions of data points streamed daily from satellites and monitoring stations, a stunning, interactive map shows just how bad pollution has become in real time. Its heat display of dangerous red blobs bleeding from global capitals and industrial areas show how air pollution is a major concern for populations of cities.

The map was launched by french startup AirVisual to coincide with the end of the COP22 climate discussions in Marrakech. Its creators wanted to demonstrate our collective failure to meet our health standards while also equipping citizens with the tools to keep track of air pollution themselves. AirVisual also produces three-day pollution forecasts for more than 5,000 cities – weather reports fit for the Anthropocene.

chinaConcentrations of pollution over India, China and Jakarta in Indonesia (Image: AirVisual)

The state of the air is plotted against the Air Quality Index (AQI), an American standard of documenting a cocktail of harmful particles – carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, ground-level ozone, nitrogen dioxide and particle pollution. Especially dangerous is a form of particle pollution called PM2.5. This type of particulate matter is small (less than 2.5 micrometers) and can penetrate deep into human lungs and bloodstreams, causing health issues such as heart disease and asthma. According to the World Health Organization’s latest estimates, such related health problems cause the deaths of seven million people every year.

brazilPollution is high in South American cities Santiago, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro but still exceed health standards over most of the continent (Image: AirVisual)

PM2.5 is thought by the WHO to be the best indicator of the level of health risks, and it considers a concentration greater than ten micrograms per cubic metre to qualify as a hazard. So, while the red clouds above cities are the most alarming, beware the greens too. For example, while it is unsurprising to see warm colours over India and eastern China, it is perhaps more worrying to see how far these plumes extend out to sea. Meanwhile, the accompanying wind speeds and directional arrows give an idea of how these pollutants are spreading from their emitters, most often from factories, car exhausts and from burning wood.

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe to Geographical!

Adventure Canada

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    The green dragon awakens
    China has achieved remarkable economic success following the principle of developing first and cleaning up later. But now the country with the world's...
    The true cost of meat
    As one of the world’s biggest methane emitters, the meat industry has a lot more to concern itself with than merely dietary issues ...
    Hung out to dry
    Wetlands are vital storehouses of biodiversity and important bulwarks against the effects of climate change, while also providing livelihoods for mill...
    Mexico City: boom town
    Twenty years ago, Mexico City was considered the ultimate urban disaster. But, recent political and economic reforms have transformed it into a hub of...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in PLACES...

Mapping

Benjamin Hennig charts the growth and impact of the world’s…

Deserts

Long-term studies reveal the Sahara desert has expanded substantially over…

Water

South America’s wealthiest economy is at a crossroads between environmental…

Forests

The European Court of Justice finds the logging of a…

Mountains

In this extract from his new book, Tides, mountain climber…

Cities

New data from the World Health Organization reveals that nine…

Water

In the wake of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan,…

Mapping

Benjamin Hennig maps out the global production and distribution levels…

Water

Millions of Americans are living in areas at high-risk of…

Mapping

New interactive maps combine precipitation and temperature to show climate…

Cities

Public transport in India could be on the verge of…

Water

To retrace the route of the fur voyageurs on the waterways…

Cities

IPCC Cities and Climate Change Conference: Alberta host dresses non-renewable…

Water

Increased carbon dioxide is affecting freshwater ecosystems

Forests

The latest laser scanning technology reveals new insights into the…

Forests

Deforestation is having an unexpected effect in the Amazon: fewer…

Forests

The iconic Douglas fir tree, familiar to fans of the…

Forests

Rocky Mountain forests are not regenerating after wildfires

Cities

Cape Town is edging closer to ‘Day Zero’, the long-feared…

Water

Ongoing restoration projects are breathing new life into Florida’s Everglades