Visibility and Air Pollution

Have you ever visited a city, or a national park or a place of natural beauty and been disappointed by the thick layer of fog or haze or smog that meant you couldn’t enjoy the view? There have been cases where road accidents have occurred due to thick smog, or disappointed tourists who visit Taj Mahal only to find the outline of the iconic monument teasing them through the haze.

Would air pollution matter more if it was visible? If you could always smell it and see it? Would London still be appealing to you if I told you that it is encased in a layer of smog at all times, and you can only venture outside with a face mask, and then too, only for an hour at a time? 

Would it matter more if air pollution made your daily life difficult? 

How does air pollution affect you? 

On February 3rd, 2018, Surabhi Jha (@SurabhiJ7) travelled from Delhi to Chennai, and noticed a stark difference in the air in the two cities.

As she flew out of Delhi, here is what the city looked like:


A couple of hours later, she landed in Chennai to this view:



What changed? Everything was clearer, more visible in Chennai compared to Delhi. Why?

Flights and trains often get delayed or cancelled due to poor visibility (case in point, Delhi), and this can result in significant economic impact over time.

Research has indicated that over time, visibility has declined globally. A study from University of Maryland concluded that “clear sky visibility over land has decreased globally over the past 30 years, indicative of increases in aerosols, or airborne pollution.” [Link

A recent study in select Chinese and Indian cities indicated that over the last decade, the percentage of days with poor visibility has increased significantly. The authors noted that “…visibility in Mumbai, Chennai and Jaipur continued deteriorating and suffered an extremely poor visibility situation in recent years (good day percentages: 0; bad day percentages: 6–100%).” [Link]

Have you noticed or experienced something similar in your city or during your travels? Are you willing to share your experience with us?

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