China mulls uniform smog alerts

Updated 2017-01-19 08:47:24 Global Times

Met, environment authorities to decide which agency announces

China's meteorological authorities said they are meeting with environmental authorities to decide who should take charge of issuing smog alerts, following rumors that the meteorological authorities have been banned from making such alerts.

An employee of the China Meteorological Administration (CMA)'s service hotline confirmed on Wednesday that the CMA and the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) are meeting to unify the release on smog alerts, The Beijing News reported on Wednesday.

A source familiar with the CMA said on Tuesday that a joint system would be established on the issuance of smog alerts, which the source said would soon be released, reported on Tuesday.

"Under the system, the CMA, the MEP and other related departments will decide which department will issue alerts," he said.

On Tuesday, an photo of the "notice on terminating smog alerts" issued by a provincial meteorological department was spread on Sina Weibo.

The notice, which was addressed to all meteorological departments of the province's cities and counties, said that "we received a phone call from the meteorological administration at around 6:30 pm on Tuesday, calling for the immediate halt to smog alerts." It could not be verified which province the notice was referring to.

"If visibility is less than 10 kilometers, all departments could issue fog alerts based on humidity levels," the notice said. The notice was authentic but an internal one that hasn't been made public, the service hot line employee said, according to The Beijing News.

However, another CMA employee told the Global Times on Wednesday that they have not received such a notice.

The two departments might be discussing new regulations on how to issue smog alerts to avoid releasing different alert levels, Song Yingjie, CCTV weather presenter, said in his Sina Weibo account.

On December 7, the Beijing Emergency Management issued a red alert on air pollution, while the city's Meteorological Service posted an orange alert on smog, which created confusion, said the CMA Center for Communication and Outreach.

The center said the different alerts were based on the two department's different standards and processes.

"For instance, in terms of forecast, the CMA usually posts fog or smog alerts and the Ministry of Environmental Protection the air pollution alerts, which may overlap and confuse the public," the employee at the CMA said.

China has a four-tier warning system for severe weather, with red being the most serious, followed by orange, yellow and blue. A red alert is issued if the city's Air Quality Index (AQI) reaches 500. Four consecutive days of heavy air pollution (AQI over 200), including two days of severe air pollution (AQI over 300), could also lead to a red alert.

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