Shanghai's New Air Quality Mascot Puts A Brave Face On Smog

Raining today? Bring an umbrella. Smoggy again? Put on a face mask. Since checking both the weather and the current level of air pollution before going out is the new normal in China, the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB) is making the latter a lot easier by featuring a new air quality mascot at their Shanghai Environmental Monitoring Center website.

The yet to be named mascot is an anime-style little girl with leafy green hair and a sweet smile... at least, that's how she looks on days when the average reading of PM2.5 (fine particulate matter under 2.5 microns in size) is at 50 or under, as measured by Shanghai's network of 10 reporting stations.

Such days are becoming increasingly rare, however, and the mascot reflects worsening pollution readings by progressively appearing sadder as her hair changes color from green to yellow to orange to red to purple and, finally, brown denoting “serious pollution” at levels of 301 to 500. By this point the poor little girl is bawling like a stuck pig, eyes clenched shut against the stinging smog smothering Shanghai.

The mascot offers an air quality snapshot at a glance, which is sufficient for most people. The website also provides the same detailed air pollution information as it did pre-mascot, including a bar graph showing airborne particulate levels for the previous 10 days. The mascot is cuter, though, even on smoggy days like today:

The worst rating on the “mascot scale” isn't just shown for comparative purposes, either: on January 13th, 2013, the American embassy in Beijing announced an AQI (air quality index) of 950!

To put these numerical air pollution levels into perspective, at 100 the air quality is deemed deleterious to good health and, according to the US embassy's measurement scale, levels from 301 to 500 are described as “hazardous.” At 950, one might expect the mascot to have gray hair and X's over her eyes. (via Angel Hsu)