Meet Li Juan, PhD – an engineer in the Atmospheric Monitoring Division of Shanghai’s Environmental Monitoring Centre (EMC). She prepares the daily air quality reports for the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau. Most of the process to retrieve the data and calculate the daily Air Pollution Index (API) is automated, as data from each of Shanghai’s 18 air monitoring stations are directly linked to the EMC. These 18 monitoring stations are called 国控点(guokongdian), which means the locations are specified by the central government. Shanghai is one of the few cities that includes daily API numbers for each one of the required pollutants (PM10, SO2, NO2) and allows for one to search past data and export it into Excel. Shanghai also boasts the most number of publicly-available PM 2.5 datapoints – with hourly and 24-hour averages for 11 stations. These data are referred to as 试点监测 (shidianjiance) because they are meant to be “experimental” data at this point. The distinction between “experimental” and “official” data lies in the absence of PM 2.5 in China’s current API.  Although the central government did release an amendment of the API into an AQI (Air Quality Index) more similar to that of the U.S., implementation of these new standards are not expected to occur nationwide until 2016 (see my previous post on China’s new AQI). I actually think that the raw PM 2.5 concentration data is more useful than the API numbers for the other pollutants – at least you don’t have to work backwards to determine what the pollutant concentrations are.

Li Juan’s job is to check to make sure there aren’t any strange anomalies in the data (which could signal that one of the monitoring stations isn’t functioning properly), but most importantly she sends out a variety of public broadcasts of the daily air quality data and reports via social media. I watched as she literally and copied and pasted the daily air quality report to several different Sina Weibo (Chinese version of Twitter) accounts. By far, Shanghai EMC’s website for air quality data, reporting, and communication is some of the most advanced and progressive I’ve seen on my trip. I was given a tour and introduction of the computerized air quality monitoring reporting done by Shanghai EMC. A video is forthcoming.