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Interactive 3D Earth shows most polluted places in the world

As the debate rages on over Climate Change and rapidly deteriorating global air quality contributing to it, an interactive 3D Earth shows just how bad it is across the world. The real-time visualization, by Beijing-based French startup AirVisual, displays angry red patches, much like ugly bleeding wounds to visualize the Earth’s health, in real-time to map most polluted places on earth.

The mesmerizing globe uses satellite imagery, US government meteorological data, and billions of data points daily from government air-quality monitoring stations in places like the US, Singapore, Canada, China, Japan etc., besides its own air-quality monitors in several other places. Big Data analytics was used to collate these data points to show the most polluted places on earth and also to equip citizens with the tools to keep track of air pollution themselves.

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The 3D Earth allows a user to spin and zoom in and out to at a glance track the different air quality index (AQI) levels across the planet via the globe’s color-coded heatmapping. The worst areas are marked in maroon, and the accompanying wind speeds in real time with directional arrows show how these pollutants are spreading. A user can also toggle between combined PM2.5 and weather data, and just wind patterns alone.

AirVisual Earth is a first of its kind map to display immediate pollution data on the globe’s surface, allowing the viewer to see the shifting movements of PM2.5 pollution across countries and populations, and watch how this interacts with a hypnotic display of weather patterns. “Launched to coincide with the end of the COP22 climate discussions in Marrakech, AirVisual Earth’s immediacy brings these numbers to life, and makes the urgent reality of the air pollution crisis apparent,” said a statement from the company.

Most polluted places

Most polluted cities
Most polluted cities. Courtesy AirVisual

Most polluted placesAirVisual also has an Air quality app which can be used to track and compare historical and real-time air quality of a place, forecast air pollution data, receive detailed figures on 6 key pollutants for more than 8,000 cities in 50-plus countries, in addition to standard air pollution news and educational resources.

These 8,000 locations are also mapped on a global map which can be viewed and analyzed here. One can check out the AQI levels of each city on the map, which also lists the most polluted as per their AQI. Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka ranks on top with 185 AQI, followed by Osaka, Japan (177), Chengdu, China (166), Kolkata, India (162), and Pnom Penh, Cambodia (169). One more Indian city, Mumbai, ranks sixth with 158, while the Chinese capital of Beijing ranks (153). Of the top 10 most polluted cities only Beijing shows a positive intention to fight pollution with +2 points.

What is AQI and PM2.5

AQI is a number used by government agencies to communicate to the public how polluted the air currently is or how polluted it is forecast to become. As the AQI increases, an increasingly large percentage of the population is likely to experience increasingly severe adverse health effects. High AQI air is a cocktail of carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, ground-level ozone, nitrogen dioxide and particle pollution.

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PM2.5, which is a type of particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers, has been identified as the deadliest form of air pollution due to its ability to penetrate deep into the lungs and blood streams, causing severe health issues such as asthma, heart attacks, and even premature death. According to latest estimates from the World Health Organization, 92% of the world’s population breathes unsafe air, and an estimated 7 million die annually as a result.

WHO considers PM2.5 concentration levels of over 10 micrograms per cubic meter as a hazard. Noticeably, the map shows anything less than 12 micrograms per cubic meter in blue and green, thus underlying just how much of the globe fails to meet the WHO standard.