Olympic air quality

One of my more acceptable personal hobbies is monitoring Beijing air pollution figures.  Naturally, Dili is the perfect place to do this.  Part of my ongoing analysis is to be found here.  Now is as good a time as any to have a look at the daily historical record to see what it is really like.

Beijing’s location does not help its desire for clean air.  In reality, Beijing is about 70kms from the Gobi desert to the west.  There is a lot of loess in this area which is really fine dust and at certain times of the year, there are the infamous Beijing sandstorms (around March and April).  Chairman Mao had a vision of a Beijing with a skyline dotted with factory chimneys and there are still some last remnants of this planning vision.  Many of the smokestacks have now been removed but during the same period, the number of cars on the roads has grown rapidly.  In the last couple of years, the older diesel chugging buses have been replaced.

The enormous economic growth in China has been driven by a fair bit of catch-up in acquisition of things such as refrigerators, air conditioners and in fact, lots of gadgets.  This has driven up the demand for electrical power significantly which is usually met by coal-fired power stations, many which are located to the west of Beijing in provinces like Shanxi.  The prevailing wind direction is from the west.

Beijing next to a desert tends to indicate a lack of plentiful water and this is the case.  In summer, temperatures get up to 40 degrees while in winter, it gets down to minus 10 and lower.  So when it comes to selecting the best time to have an Olympic Games, August is the winner.  July may be technically clearer but it is also a lot hotter.  In China, the number 8 is seen as a very lucky number – the word “auspicious” is often used.  So it is no surprise for the Olympics to be commencing on 8/8/08 – lots of auspiciousness in that date.

If I can get my act together, I may publish a few more statistical analyses of the figures over the next week.