We may be enjoying the fourth consecutive day of clear skies and low AQI in Beijing but, along with death and taxes, there is one other certainty in life – the smog will return.
The pollution apps that most of us rely on (mainly as a reminder of how much we are damaging ourselves) provide an invaluable service. If the AQI is 500 outside, it’s great to know so that I can stay inside strapped to an air purifier. But that’s a bit like finding out there’s going to be a thunderstorm via the fact that your barbeque has been extinguished. It’s normally a bit too late to be helpful.
What if I need to know whether tomorrow will be clear for that hypothetical cycle ride I’ve been planning?
Now there’s an app to help – Beijing Smogcast. Created by geochemist Dustin Grzesik, who used Beijing’s weather patterns to create a predictive forecast, the app tells you when to expect the next bout of clean air. It’s about as simple as you can get (it merely tells you when the next clear day and morning will be) and the three-sentence summary is as straightforward as the one you can find Banshirne website (see screenshot above).
Nonetheless, if you’re trying to pick a day for that family outing and would rather not be accosted by an apocalyptic cloud of PM2.5, then this could be incredibly useful information. It’s already popular with the cycling community, but if the science behind the forecast is sound then it could be the beginning of something very, very useful for all Beijingers.
The app, currently only available on Android, is still in its infancy, with the BBC reporting that there have only been a few hundred downloads so far. This means that we’re not sure how useful or accurate it will actually be. If it’s anything like the weather forecast (which it relies on to make its own predictions) then it will probably be correct some of the time and certainly more useful than nothing.
Beijing Smogcast is available in English and Chinese from www.banshirne.com or through Google Play. We’d love to know how useful it proves, and whether it’s accurate enough to rely on. So if you download the app please do get in touch with your thoughts in the comments section below or on firstname.lastname@example.org.