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Northeastern China paralyzed by perfect storm of air pollution

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The city of Harbin in northern China is closing down airports and schools thanks to a perfect storm of air pollution, according to a report from the New York Times. Particulate matter in the city's air has reached record-setting levels, prompting local government to advise citizens to stay in their homes as local hospitals saw a 30 percent surge in admissions from respiratory problems. Visibility is less than 10 meters in many parts of the city, which has made driving both difficult and dangerous, and the Times quotes the city's official news site as saying, "You can’t see your own fingers in front of you."

According to Quartz, The most proximate cause of the pollution is corn burned for the harvest, along with the city's coal-burning furnaces, which were turned on for the winter this Sunday. Thanks to a lack of wind in the region, those emissions have stuck around, creating a choking cloud over the city and bringing municipal activities to a standstill. The city has already dispatched workers to prevent corn-burning in nearby villages and inspect local factories for emissions violations. Otherwise, the city's best hope is an incoming cold front, which officials hope will bring enough rain to clear the air.