Southeast Asia and Southern China
Dust and smoke mingled in the skies over Southeast Asia and eastern China on March 28, 2006.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) flying onboard the Terra satellite took this picture the same day. In this image, white clouds hang over otherwise smoggy skies.
The tiny red dots splattered over the landscape are thermal anomalies, areas where the satellite sensor detected temperatures much warmer than the surroundings. These thermal anomalies were likely caused by agricultural fires.
The yellowish haze near the top of the image may be dust, perhaps from a Gobi Desert dust storm. Haze is a generic term for visible air pollution, and can consist of dust, smoke, and other particulate matter.
As China has grown as an economic power, its demand for electricity from mostly coal-fired power plants and for automobiles has increased dramatically. This has lead directly to increases in sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, soot, and other atmospheric pollutants.
Haze and smog are major health concerns; according to the American Heart Association, they have been linked to increased occurrences of heart disease and stroke. They may also be associated with reduced immune system response and cause damage to the lining of the lungs.
In order to improve air quality, China is working with international partners, including the United Nations and the United States, to expand renewable resources, such as wind, solar, and hydroelectric power.