TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Western Taiwan is being shrouded by a thick layer of polluted air for the second day in a row today (Feb. 26), with 13 weather stations flashing red alerts and 37 showing orange alerts.
Air quality Friday continued the poor conditions seen on Thursday (Feb. 25). As of 9 a.m. this morning, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) reported that 13 weather stations flashed a red warning for "unhealthy" air quality in New Taipei City, Taichung City, Changhua County, Yunlin County, Chiayi County, and Tainan City. Meanwhile, 37 stations in New Taipei City, Taoyuan City, Hsinchu County, Miaoli County, Taichung City, Changhua County, Chiayi County, Yunlin County, Tainan City, and Kaohsiung City issued orange alerts for air that is "unhealthy for sensitive groups."
The EPA uses a six-color air pollution warning system in which a maroon alert is the most severe, signifying “hazardous” air, followed by purple, red, orange, yellow, and green. According to EPA standards, a red alert runs from 151 to 200 on the Air Quality Index (AQI) scale.
AQI levels above 150 are considered “unhealthy for everyone,” and members of sensitive groups may experience adverse effects. The highest level of pollution reported in northern Taiwan so far today was an AQI of 153 at Yonghe weather station in New Taipei City at 9 a.m.
Slow wind speeds and a counterclockwise vortex blowing pollutants from south to north is generating poor air quality in northern Taiwan today, according to Central Weather Bureau (CWB) forecaster Kuan Hsin-ping (官欣平). Kuan explained that the vortex is caused by wind direction and topography.
However, he said the arrival of northeasterly seasonal winds on Saturday (Feb. 27) should gradually disperse the pollutants. In response to the poor air quality over the past couple days, Tsai Meng-yu (蔡孟裕), director of the EPA's Department of Air Quality Protection and Noise Control, said that vehicle inspections will be increased and six incinerators in the Greater Taipei area will reduce operations by 20 percent from 5 p.m. today and 5 a.m. tomorrow.
When the northeastern seasonal winds intensify on Saturday, conditions to disperse the air pollutants in northern and central Taiwan should improve, resulting in cleaner air. However, because southern Taiwan will be on the leeward side of the winds, pollutants could accumulate in the air on that day from Yunlin to Pingtung, with orange alerts likely in that region.
Taiwan weather expert Peng Chi-ming (彭啟明) advises residents of affected areas today to avoid spending extended periods of time outdoors and when stepping out to wear a mask designed to filter out PM 2.5 particles.