For the first time in 2014, the China Meteorological Administration and the Ministry of Environmental Protection issued an orange alert for air quality on Friday. This is the second-highest level of air pollution possible for the city, and smog is expected to loom over the city through at least Wednesday.
Beijing has seen several problems with air pollution over the past several years, and this is likely to be only the first of several stretches of poor air quality for the capitol city of China this year.
A strong area of high pressure east of Beijing has produced light winds across the region for the last few days allowing the air pollution to build.
The lack of rainfall during Beijing's dry season, combined with stagnant air help to set up the conditions for the air pollution to form. Small air particles and water droplets combine to form the air pollution, which are known to cause several health problems.
According to the United States Embassy, the level of particles peaked at 501 ppm (parts per million) on Tuesday, above the limit of 300 ppm recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
During the orange alert, factories must either shut down or lower their pollution levels. Those found breaching emission rules would be fined by the government.
Around 150 companies have closed or reduced production across the city during the recent stretch of poor air quality. Outdoor construction was also halted across the city in an attempt to limit the amount of air pollution.
Cars clog the traffic in Beijing's Central Business District on a hazy day, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014. A rare air pollution alert issued Friday in Beijing prompted health advisories and bans on barbeques, fireworks and demolition work, but fell short of the strictest measures which would include ordering half the city's cars off the streets. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)
High levels of air pollution problems will continue through Wednesday as winds will remain light with high pressure still in control. A cold front approaching from the west on Wednesday night will help to bring some increase in winds to the area which will stir up the atmosphere and reduce the amount of air pollution by Thursday.
Meteorologist Alan Reppert contributed to this story.
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