Pollution in Eastern China
China's economy has developed rapidly over the last two decades, driven in large part by a very specific energy source: coal. Scientists estimate that as much as 70 percent of the country's energy comes from the burning of coal. The growth of the economy has come hand in hand with both urbanization and the ability of more individuals to own their own cars. With less strict vehicle emission standards than those in more developed countries, cities have become increasingly crowded with cars, while skies have become increasingly thick with pollution.
This image from the Terra MODIS instrument, acquired on February 12, 2005, illustrates the air pollution problems China faces as it continues to develop. The east coastal plain, ringed on the west by several rugged mountain ranges, can seem like a bowl filled with hazy air. Pollution gets especially bad over major cities like Beijing and Tianjin, as well as along the Yellow River where it flows eastward out of the mountains. The underlying Terra MODIS image from February 2, 2005, shows how smog builds up over the region in just a matter of days.