Earth's Journal

Atmosphere Journal Entry

Thick Smog Settles Over India (February 1, 2005)

India smog

Satellite view of smog hanging over Bihar State in northern India. NASA GSFC.

A thick blanket of smoggy pollution has settled over the state of Bihar in northern India. The smog is choking a densely populated area where about 100 million people live, mostly in the Ganges River Valley.

The level of pollution is about five times greater than that often found over Los Angeles, one of the smoggiest cities in North America.

Much of the pollution is coming from smoke from the burning of cooking fuels in millions of homes across the region. In the winter months, the smoke particles become trapped between the walls of the valley. A strong high-pressure system the often plants itself in the region's atmosphere in winter keeps the pollution close to the ground.

The pollution affects both the local weather patterns and health. The smog can cause respiratory problems, especially in people with asthma. On some days, the smog combines with fog to form a dangerous combination blamed for scores of accidents in the states of Bihar, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh.

In the satellite picture above, India is at the center and left of the image. Bangladesh is visible in the upper right, while the Himalayas form an arc across the top.