For the third time in two weeks, Iran’s capital, Tehran, has been effectively shut down due to seriously unhealthy air pollution levels. All government offices, banks and schools were closed on Thursday and people with respiratory problems, children and the elderly were told to stay at home. Tehran is no stranger to smog, much like Los Angeles, and its geography makes it prone to smog problems, but the current levels are far above normal. The city has seen a 30 percent spike in respiratory illness related hospitalizations as it is enveloped in a yellow buttery looking opaque haze.

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The current smog problem is due to a stagnant weather pattern that is trapping pollution from cars and buildings. Tehran is surrounded by mountains which form a kind of thermal catch basin which sometimes blocks winds and traps air pollution. Though the city was founded two centuries ago because the inhabitants found its climate to be healthy, the ever growing amount of cars and pollution sources have caused the city to become a hot bed for poor air quality. To highlight how big of a problem air pollution is, one of the focal points in Tehran is a giant air quality gauge.

City officials are trying to think big about the problem. Possible geoengineering plans have been drawn up to try to shake the weather patterns around Tehran into moving more air into the city but have been brushed off due to their high cost. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is currently trying to push a city wide migration away from Tehran into a more hospitable geographic area, though residents are not fond of his idea. He has already moved some government agencies to other cities in an effort to jump start an exodus. For now, residents have been told to stay at home if possible to avoid the “eye stinging” yellow cloud, no wonder Iran is totally on board with the electric vehicle movement — they’re going to need to go green soon or this smog just might consume them.