Tag Archives: Angel Hsu

Polluting in the new year!

First, of course, happy new year to all those greeting the year of the dragon this week. I, for one, am suitably stuffed.

Second, via Angel Hsu, this image depicting what is most likely a huge cloud of noxious firecracker emissions as Beijing celebrated the new year (which, being lunar, coincided with the new moon). Beijing has promised to provide real-time data on PM-2.5 (particle matter under 2.5 microns), thought to be a category of pollution that acutely threatens human health.

The U.S. embassy in Beijing has for years offered live data from a sensor in its compound, and the addition of the Chinese data is welcomed. Just look at that spike!

Click for full size.

(To see for yourself, visit http://zx.bjmemc.com.cn/ and click on the PM2.5 tab.)

Foreign media depending on Chinese microblogs [graph]

Readers of English-language news on China have likely noticed a surge in references to netizens, microblogs, and a specific microblogging service called Sina Weibo. Angel Hsu noted this was increasing, and I thought I’d check to see how much.

For a really rough measure of how much foreign reporters are depending on Chinese microblogs to cover public sentiment, I searched LexisNexis’s “Major World Publications” database for mentions of China along with any one of the words “weibo,” “microblog,” or “micro-blog.” (Weibo, in addition to being Sina’s brand, literally means “micro blog.”)

This measure is horribly imperfect. To begin with, some stories are double-counted, and there’s no reason to assume Nexis is representative of foreign media. Moreover, some of these mentions are stories about Sina Weibo itself, not quoting its users. I wrote one such article for Talking Points Memo.

The trend, however, seems clear. After the first mentions in mid-2009, when Sina Weibo launched, Nexis shows few mentions until a surge beginning in late 2010. In the last few months, the trend is upward.*

See for yourself:

*Note: I counted 76 stories so far in August 2011, which leads to an estimate of 262.

If you want the data yourself, for what it’s worth, you can find a CSV file here. Please respect the Creative Commons license under which this site is published.

Update: Chinese translation / 译言网翻译

Pollution from space, and human geography

A remarkable photograph published by NASA shows, as Angel Hsu notes, the pollution in the air during the climate talks in Tianjin earlier this month. The high-resolution image is striking, and will live on the desktop of my external monitor for some time.

NASA notes that this image captures an event that resulted from increased emissions and stagnant air due to weather systems. But it also captures, in my amateur opinion, the population centers of China. The first thing I noticed after my habitual task of locating Beijing and drawing some borders in my head (as the political geographer must) was the lonely cloud and its vivid shadow, in the orange-cream yoghurt desert which I’m pretty sure is in Inner Mongolia, next to Gansu. The air, it appears, is glorious when you get far, far from population centers.

As we glance eastward into the eastern Ordos region, across the north-south section of the Yellow River, and into the heavily populated coastal and central plains provinces, we see air thick with particulates and fog. According to NASA, regular clouds look like the brilliant white at right and left.