China's air pollution problem is so bad that on especially cold days in the country's largest cities, the smog trapped below the dense, cold air collects to such a degree that NASA said this week it could be seen from space.
The morning of January 10 was one such day in Beijing, according to the U.S. space agency. On that particular day, particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers were reading "off the scale" at the U.S. embassy, NASA explained.
Chinese air pollution seen from space. Photo: Courtesy of NASA.
That's because the pollution coming from the city was being trapped under a blanket of cold air, which was similarly trapped under a layer of warm air, creating a bubble of sorts that let the smog build and build.
Photos taken by orbiting satellites showed a massive smog cloud covering a significant portion of the country on January 10, but photos taken on the 11th showed almost no trace of the pollution storm.
China is the world's number one polluter nation, responsible for about 27 percent of the world's CO2 emissions in 2011, according to researchers at the University of East Anglia.
Though the country does not have as much atmospheric pollution per person as the United States, they could one day come to rival that output volume. Officials insist their emissions will continue to grow until China's annual per capita gross domestic product is roughly five times its current level.
The Environmental Protection Agency says that chronic exposure to particulate air pollution can cause numerous health problems like asthma, bronchitis and lung cancer, to name a few.