Smog blocks the view from the ground of sunset in Jinan, Shandong Province. This was taken atop a 300-meter-high building on Saturday. Photo: CFP
The severe smog which has enveloped much of central and eastern China for several days is expected to clear by Monday, following the arrival of a cold front on Sunday.
The orange alert issued for smog and fog, the second highest in China's four-tier warning system, had been lowered to yellow on Sunday afternoon by the National Meteorological Center (NMC) in Anhui Province and parts of nearby provinces including Shandong and Henan. The center said that the smog in northern China has cleared and parts of Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces only need wait another night for clear skies.
Heavy smog is not expected in southern China around the middle of December due to the cold front and increasing rainfall, said the NMC.
Much of China was affected by fog Sunday, with visibility down to less than 1,000 meters from Beijing to East China's Fujian Province. Southern regions, from Sichuan to Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, saw light fog or smog.
Smoggy conditions have prevailed since early December. Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) statistics show that 104 cities across 20 provinces suffered from severe pollution on Saturday, reported the Xinhua News Agency.
"Life was like a horror movie. You could barely see anything clearly and I almost got lost at a crossroads without all the landmark buildings," said Ren Dan, a student from Jiangsu.
Meanwhile, China's neighbors have also been affected.
High pollution levels in Seoul, South Korea, prompted authorities to issue an advisory, the Yonhap News Agency reported Thursday. Weather officials there said Shanghai and Shandong were the non-local sources, which pushed PM2.5 up to 93. Seoul officials plan to visit China this week to discuss cooperation over information sharing.
Huang Wei, Climate and Energy campaigner for Greenpeace, said that while the radius of pollutant diffusion could extend to some 1,000 kilometers, it remains to be seen whether the pollutants in other countries all come from China.
Calm weather in the Yangzte River Delta region led to relatively unusual severe build-up of atmospheric pollution.
"Heavy emissions lie at the root of the region's problem, including sulfide and nitrogen oxide, which come from local heavy industries and coal plants. No city can combat air pollution alone. There should be a joint system for air pollution monitoring and early warning. It should specify the goal of emission cuts and define responsibility among leaders," Huang said.
Five billion yuan ($822 million) was allocated to rewarding cooperation in air pollution treatment efforts in October in six regions around Beijing.
The MEP said Sunday that an analysis of the source of pollutants will be released in the latter part of 2014, reported China Central Television.