Beijing’s AQI Hits All-Time 24-Hour High of 485 on Christmas

Congratulations Beijing, you’ve hit a new high (or should we say low): The average AQI concentration on Christmas Day yesterday was 485, the highest 24-hour daily average ever recorded since the Ministry of Environmental Protection began publicly releasing daily averages on its website two years ago.

God knows it may have been worse at some point in the past, but government data is a bit sketchy pre-2014, and particularly because it didn’t even begin monitoring PM 2.5 in muliple locations until the latter half of 2012. Since that time, PM 2.5 has been the primary pollutant in 50% of the days recorded (for the morbidly curious, ozone was the next most commonly recorded primary pollutant in 27% of the days, while nitrogen dioxide and PM 10 were the primiary pollutants in the remaining days, with 11% each).

Now before you get wise and say you’ve seen numbers much higher than 485, remember you’re probably thinking talking about hourly averages, not 24-hour averages. This is the first time that the daily 24-hour average has been this high.

Yesterday’s 24-hour average of 485 bested the filthy record of AQI 476 previously set earlier this month on Dec 1.

Here’s some more ignoble records we’ve set in December of 2015, according to data distilled from the environmental ministry’s website:

Shittiest One-Day AQI Average: Dec 25, 2014 (AQI 485)

Filthiest 7-Day AQI Average: Dec 19-Dec 25 (AQI 292)

Tie for Most Consecutive Days with AQI in the “Red Alert” Zone (> 200): Dec 20-25 (six days, equalling Feb 20-25, 2014)

If the bad air keeps up through next week we could be also be on pace for the Crappiest Month Ever, as December’s monthly average of AQI 189 has been 5% more nauseating than the next most horrendous month on record, Feb 2014, which had an average AQI of a hair under 181.

The news for December is particularly depressing because 2015 had been looking up through the first three quarters of the year.

Through the end of October, the average AQI index for 2015 has been 114, a 16% drop from 2014’s 132. However, a terrible November and a disastrous December (so far) have reversed that trend with a vengeance: this year’s Nov-Dec average AQI has been 172, a wheeze-inducing 58% worse than last year’s AQI average of 99 over the same period.

It’s almost enough to make one wonder if Beijing feels insulted that New Delhi is beginning to encroach upon its title of Filthiest World Capital. or perhaps the powers-that-be have decided to let the factories run on high for the remainder of the year to make up for all that clean air we got to breathe over the first three quarters of the year.

If you’ve been in town the past week, give yourself a pat on the back for surviving. Give your IQ Air a big ol’ bear hug and crack open a fresh bottle of canned Canadian air to reward yourself. You’re one tough cookie.

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