Beijing Travel Guide

Geography

Beijing is situated at the northern tip of the roughly triangular North China Plain, which opens to the south and east of the city. Mountains to the north, northwest and west shield the city and northern China's agricultural heartland from the encroaching desert steppes. The northwestern part of the municipality, especially Yanqing County and Huairou District, are dominated by the Jundu Mountains, while the western part is framed by Xishan or the Western Hills. The Great Wall of China across the northern part of Beijing Municipality was built on the rugged topography to defend against nomadic incursions from the steppes. Mount Dongling, in the Western Hills and on the border with Hebei, is the municipality's highest point, with an altitude of .

Major rivers flowing through the municipality, including the Chaobai, Yongding, Juma, are all tributaries in the Hai River system, and flow in a southeasterly direction. The Miyun Reservoir, on the upper reaches of the Chaobai River, is the largest reservoir within the municipality. Beijing is also the northern terminus of the Grand Canal to Hangzhou, which was built over 1,400 years ago as a transportation route, and the South–North Water Transfer Project, constructed in the past decade to bring water from the Yangtze River basin.

The urban area of Beijing, on the plains in the south-central of the municipality with elevation of 40–60 m, occupies a relatively small but expanding portion of the municipality's area. The city spreads out in concentric ring roads. The Second Ring Road traces the old city walls and the Sixth Ring Road connects satellite towns in the surrounding suburbs. Tian'anmen and Tian'anmen Square are at the center of Beijing, directly to the south of the Forbidden City, the former residence of the emperors of China. To the west of Tian'anmen is Zhongnanhai, the residence of China's current leaders. Chang'an Avenue which cuts between Tiananmen and the Square, forms the city's main east-west axis.

Climate

Beijing has a rather dry, monsoon-influenced humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dwa), characterized by hot, humid summers due to the East Asian monsoon, and generally cold, windy, dry winters that reflect the influence of the vast Siberian anticyclone. Spring can bear witness to sandstorms blowing in from Gobi Desert across the Mongolian steppe, accompanied by rapidly warming, but generally dry, conditions. Autumn, like spring, sees little rain, but is crisp and short. The monthly daily average temperature in January is, while in July it is . Precipitation averages around annually, with close to three-fourths of that total falling from June to August. Extremes have ranged from to .

Air quality

Joint research between American and Chinese researchers in 2006 concluded that much of the city's pollution comes from surrounding cities and provinces. On average 35–60% of the ozone can be traced to sources outside the city. Shandong Province and Tianjin Municipality have a "significant influence on Beijing's air quality", partly due to the prevailing south/southeasterly flow during the summer and the mountains to the north and northwest.

In preparation for the 2008 Summer Olympics and to fulfill promises to clean up the city's air, nearly 17 billion USD was spent. Beijing implemented a number of air improvement schemes for the duration of the Games, including halting work at all construction sites, closing many factories in Beijing permanently, temporarily shutting industry in neighboring regions, closing some gas stations, and cutting motor traffic by half by limiting drivers to odd or even days (based on their license plate numbers), reducing bus and subway fares, opening new subway lines, and banning high-emission vehicles. The city further assembled 3,800 natural-gas powered buses, one of the largest fleets in the world. Beijing became the first city in China to require the Chinese equivalent to the Euro 4 emission standard.

Coal burning accounts for about 40% of the PM 2.5 in Beijing and is also the chief source of nitrogen and sulfur dioxide. Since 2012, the city has been converting coal-fired power stations to burn natural gas and aims to cap annual coal consumption at 20 million tons. In 2011, the city burned 26.3 million tons of coal, 73% of which for heating and power generation and the remainder for industry. Much of the city’s air pollutants are emitted by neighboring regions. Coal consumption in neighboring Tianjin is expected to increase from 48 to 63 million tons from 2011 to 2015. Hebei Province burned over 300 million tons of coal in 2011, more than all of Germany, of which only 30% were used for power generation and a considerable portion for steel and cement making. Power plants in the coal-mining regions of Shanxi, Inner Mongolia and Shaanxi, where coal consumption has tripled since 2000, and Shandong also contribute to air pollution in Beijing. Shandong, Shanxi, Hebei and Inner Mongolia, respectively rank from first to fourth, among Chinese provinces by coal consumption.

The government regularly uses cloud-seeding measures to increase the likelihood of rain showers in the region to clear the air prior to large events as well as to combat drought conditions in the area.

Readings

Due to Beijing's high-level of air pollution, there are various readings by different sources on the subject. Daily pollution readings at 27 monitoring stations around the city are reported on the website of the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau (BJEPB). The United States Embassy in Beijing also reports hourly fine particulate (PM2.5) and ozone levels on Twitter. Although the BJEPB and US Embassy measure different pollutants according to different criteria the media has noted that pollution levels and the impact to human health reported by the BJEPB are often lower than that reported by the US Embassy.

Dust storms

Dust from the erosion of deserts in northern and northwestern China results in seasonal dust storms that plague the city; the Beijing Weather Modification Office sometimes artificially induces rainfall to fight such storms and mitigate their effects. In the first four months of 2006 alone, there were no fewer than eight such storms. In April 2002, one dust storm alone dumped nearly 50,000 tons of dust onto the city before moving on to Japan and Korea.

source: Wikipedia

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