Photo taken on Dec. 5, 2011 shows the fog-covered main building of the Beijing West Railway Station in Beijing, capital of China. China's Central Meteorological Station issued on Monday a blue alert signal for a heavy fog that started to shroud the capital city and nearby areas the previous day. Photo: Xinhua
Dense fog will continue to linger in the northern and eastern regions of the country until Friday, which has disrupted traffic conditions and worsened air pollution in Beijing and other major cities.
The National Meteorological Center (NMC) issued a blue alert at 6 am Monday morning, saying the heavy fog will decrease visibility to less than 1,000 meters in the eastern and northern parts of China, including Beijing, Tianjin, and in the provinces of Shandong, Hebei, Zhejiang, Fujian, and Hunan.
Since Sunday, at least 89 flights have been cancelled and 68 were delayed as of 10 am Monday morning due to the fog, according to the official website of the Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA) on Monday. The Jinan International Airport in Shandong Province has been closed for more than 24 hours as a result of the fog which emerged on Saturday, canceling up to 193 flights through Sunday, according to the Shandong-based Dazhong Daily.
The fog has had a huge impact on driving conditions throughout several parts of the country. A number of expressways in Beijing were closed over road safety concerns, and in Liaoning Province, vehicles waited for up to 50 miles near a charging booth as a result of drivers unwilling to exit the expressways under heavy fog conditions, according to local traffic management authorities.
The NMC said a cold wind current will hit eastern and central China beginning Tuesday and will last until Friday which could help dissipate the fog.
Zhang Mingying, a meteorological engineer at the Beijing Meteorological Bureau, told the Global Times on Monday that the recent fog is normal in terms of frequency during this time of year according to their monitoring.
"Heavy fog has occurred 6 times a year on average over the past 30 years and December's fog was the seventh occurrence this year. Therefore, it is a normal climate condition in Beijing," said Zhang.
Except for increased traffic congestion, the dense fog has also aggravated the air quality.
The Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau said on its official microblog on Sunday that the air quality pollution index would reach up to 280 by Monday, which is a "medium pollution degree" according to the official air quality pollution scale system.
Zhang refuted the idea that the fog is a result of air pollution saying, "It is the massive amount of water vapor near the ground and the drop in temperature which creates the fog."
The amount of pollution masks sold online at the Taobao Mall website experienced a sharp increase due to the recent heavy fog and haze.
"The mask sales recently increased by at least ten times due to rising pollutants in the air which have been triggered by the dense fog," Xi Chanjuan, a sales manager of the Zetai Furnishing Store which is registered with Taobao Mall, one of China's most well-known e-commerce platforms, told the Global Times on Monday.
Xi said they generally sell about 30 masks a day in November, but the amount sold so far has reached at least 300 a day for several consecutive days during early December.
Zhang suggested citizens, especially those with respiratory problems, should avoid outdoor activities as much as possible under such heavy fog conditions.
Xie Jianing contributed to this story.