Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Air Pollution In Tainan

A few weeks ago, on January 3rd, the Taipei Times carried this news item in which the air quality of Tainan was cited as being "unhealthy". In particular, the air quality in the rural north-east district of Baihe was said to be particularly bad...
"Air quality readings at the temporary monitoring station in the city’s Baihe District (白河) climbed to 156 yesterday morning, the third-highest in the nation, after reaching 155 on Sunday afternoon, which was the highest in the nation at the time."
Those numbers refer to the composite Air Quality Index scale used by the Taiwan EPA which  is used to measure the dosage of a number of air pollutants (likely to include sulphur dioxide [SO2], particulate matter [PM10], fine particulate matter [PM2.5], nitrogen dioxide [NO2], and carbon monoxide [CO] among others). But the important point here is that Baihe district is a rural area with few sources of air pollution. The apparent fact that a high level of air pollution was recorded there would therefore seem to require an explanation.

One possibility is that the level of air pollution in Baihe district, and perhaps the rest of Tainan, is dependent on meteorological factors such as wind and temperature gradient. What may be happening is that air pollutants from elsewhere (e.g. other areas of Taiwan such as Taichung or Kaohsiung), are dispersed toward areas like Tainan and Chiayi and these areas may have insufficient vertical mixing of the air through convection (e.g. due to atmospheric temperature inversion) and insufficient horizontal dispersal through poorly sustained winds. That would explain the unhealthy AQI values in rural Baihe district where the greatest source of air pollution is likely to be duck farts.

Of course however, the reporter did not even attempt to explain, and was content to merely quote a Tainan city councilor's apparatchik making stupid noises about "environmental injustice". Wouldn't it actually be quite wonderful to have somebody dig into what research there may be on the matter (there is surely some), and actually make a report about it in some form in order to actually enlighten us as opposed to fabricating constant faux outrage? This is yet another example of the way the media, in this case the Taiwanese media, seems to be failing the public every single day.

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