All day today, it has felt like it's about to snow. The overcast skies, the slight mistiness in the air - it must have been a sign that surely, snow was on its way. However, feeling and reality can be two very different things, as was the case today. It was not preparing to snow, and it was not "foggy" like weather.com said. No, the air quality was just so bad, they don't even have a word to describe it.
Today, the air quality index measured Beijing's air quality as being above 500 - which doesn't sound too terrible, until you realize the index stops at 500. 301 to 500 is considered "hazardous", with effects on the majority of the population. Last night, the index of Beijing peaked at 525. Two hours ago, it was at 503, which the person writing could only characterize as "crazy bad", which is slightly amusing. The irony of it all is that I got this information from the Beijing Air twitter feed - aka, from a website that is blocked in China. The more I think about it, the wackier this gets. You can't make this stuff up!
Responses to the 500 + readings have been varied. Our TA - who kindly sent out the email informing us of the air quality - "believes that this means it's about to start raining coal", and a classmate said it feels like living in a post-apocalyptic world. I liken it more to going to school in a mythical land where you can't see more than a city block, because everything is engulfed in this misty haze. Another of our classmates kindly posted a link to an article about the health effects of smog on my Facebook wall, and suggested perhaps we should take up smoking cigarettes when we get back to Chicago - it would probably be better for our health. I am kind of curious to know what happens if it spikes even higher - do we leave "crazy bad" territory and go into "OMG WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!1!" territory?