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Ultrafine dust rising to 'very bad' levels in Seoul

All News 09:56 December 10, 2019

SEOUL, Dec. 10 (Yonhap) -- Ultrafine dust concentrations are forecast to surge to "very bad" levels in the Seoul metropolitan area and to "bad" levels in other parts of the country Tuesday, due largely to a steady influx of Chinese smog into the stagnant air over the Korean Peninsula, meteorologists said.

According to the Air Quality Forecasting Center affiliated with the Ministry of Environment, the entire nation, excluding Jeju Island, will post ultrafine dust readings above bad levels throughout the day.

In Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province, PM 2.5, or fine dust particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, will rise to very bad levels, while parts of Gangwon Province, the Chungcheong provinces and Daegu will temporarily record very bad levels of PM 2.5.

The sky over downtown Seoul is thick with fine dust on Dec. 10, 2019. (Yonhap)

The weather authorities categorize the concentrations of PM2.5 particles between 0 and 15 micrograms per cubic meter as "good," between 16 and 35 as "normal," between 36 and 75 as "bad," and more than 76 as "very bad."

As of 8 a.m., the PM 2.5 reading rose to 41 micrograms per cubic meter in Seoul, 39 in Incheon, 45 in Gyeonggi Province, 52 in Daegu and 43 in Busan.

The air forecasting center attributed the latest surge in fine dust to westerly and southwesterly winds blowing in smog from China.

It explained the warm westerly winds carrying Chinese ultrafine dust particles began to flow over the peninsula over the weekend, when the cold Siberian high pressure weakened.

Some officials and experts say a phenomenon of three cold days followed by four fine dust days appears to have solidified in South Korea in wintertime.

Indeed, the center forecast that the nation will be blanketed by thick fine dust concentrations until Wednesday, while daily high temperatures will rise to 7 C to 17 C.

Ultrafine dust rising to 'very bad' levels in Seoul - 2

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Environment enforced a set of emergency measures to reduce fine dust pollution in the capital and North Chungcheong areas for the first time this winter.

In Seoul, for instance, the use of grade 5 emission vehicles was banned starting at 6 a.m. and the restriction will continue until 9 p.m. Violators will face a fine of 100,000 won (US$84). The environment ministry has already classified 2.69 million vehicles, mostly diesel cars, out of 23 million vehicles registered in the nation as grade 5 emission vehicles.

In the capital and North Chungcheong areas, an alternate no-driving day system was implemented for vehicles owned by public institutions and civil servants. On Tuesday, only public vehicles with even-numbered license plates will be allowed on the roads.


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