NASA’s Earth Observatory has released startling new satellite images of the thick layer of smog that engulfed Beijing over the weekend. Two images, taken on January 14 and January 3, 2013, show the record-breaking levels of air pollution in China’s capital, with extensive haze, low clouds and fog over the surrounding region. After the pollution levels reached their maximum mid-January, an “orange fog warning” was issued by the state, advising residents of Beijing to stay inside.

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The first image, taken on January 14, shows Beijing and adjacent coastal city Tianjin smothered by a layer of haze. The gray and yellow-tinged clouds show areas heavily affected by smog. The cities below are almost completely obscured. At the time the image was taken, ground sensors at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing recorded PM2.5 measurement of 291 micrograms per cubic meter of air—levels of PM2.5 were measured a several times that amount over the weekend. According to the World Health Organization, all PM2.5 values over 25 are considered hazardous to human health.

The second image, taken on January 3, shows layers of recent snowfall, with larger areas of the cities visible from space.

Via Slashdot

Images by NASA Earth Observatory