Shanghai’s New Air Quality mascot


note: this image was created by me taking the AQI girl images from Shanghai EPB’s website. If you use it, please link back to this post. Thank you.

Shanghai’s Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB) recently updated how it communicates daily air quality via its website and Weibo account.  Shanghai has one of the best websites for accessing information about air quality, including real-time pollution data in pollutant concentrations and Air Quality Index (AQI) readings. They also give you a bar chart of AQI readings for the past week or so. You can even access historical AQI data for PM10, SO2, and NO2.

But by far my favorite innovation Shanghai’s EPB has made so far is in the use of this little air quality mascot to communicate what the various levels of pollution on the normalized AQI index mean.  For the most part, things take a sour turn for AQI girl (let’s just call her that, I’m not sure if she has an official name) after the Good (51-100) part of the range. I like how they coordinated her hair color with the official color codes of different pollutant thresholds – it’s a great way for people to automatically remember and understand what the different colors mean. AQI girl also provides a much more people and user-friendly means to calculate air quality, as opposed to other cartoon characters or anime figures that they could gone with.

Comparing the daily PM 2.5 (fine particulate matter) microblogs with the previous version, there are some definite improvements, along with AQI girl: the AQI color codes are integrated along with the AQI PM2.5 readings for Shanghai’s 10 stations. They also provide the concentration data in micrograms/cubic meter below (the straight line with the circles) over a 24-hour averaged period.  They also provide some text explaining what the AQI is, what pollutants it measures, and what the various thresholds (“excellent,” “good,” etc.) mean.  It’s a huge improvement in terms of making the information much more accessible than the previous version. Other EPBs could really take a cue from what Shanghai’s done.

photo (12)photo 4

Left: the previous version of daily PM 2.5 Weibo communications from Shanghai EPB’s official weibo account. Right: the new version, as of mid-November, 2012.

I can only imagine next will come a video game for AQI girl that will feature her navigating Shanghai’s polluted streets, having to dodge roadside exhaust coming from tailpipes, all the while remembering to wear her face mask when she sees AQI readings above 150.

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  • Samuel Wade

    What does she look like at 500+? A skull?

  • Angel Hsu

    i LOL-ed at this comment.

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  • livefrombeijing

    where did you get the first image? i’m curious if those are “official” english translations

  • Angel Hsu

    they are my translations. should i fix any of them? the website: says: 优,良,轻度污染,中度污染,重度污染,严重污染. I guess 严重 could be severe, hazardous is closer to the US definition.

  • Vance

    the reason i asked is because your first version had the word “hazardous,” which i haven’t ever seen in official English material from the Chinese government. “hazardous” implies health implications whereas “heavy pollution” or “serious pollution” don’t. i think it’s an important linguistic distinction.

  • Angel Hsu

    yes, you’re right. I was thinking of the US AQI and didn’t look at the Chinese carefully. Thanks for the catch! 

  • Svend Erik Hansen

    Nice, now they only have to improve air quality. However it will be a lengthy process, although Shanghai isn’t that bad. But the last days has been horrible.

    Nothing compared to London in 1952

    Then, they couldn’t measure PM2.5, they measured how many died.

  • Pamela Young

    They even have an ‘English’ option – terrific! 
    And running a webcam snap of Lujiazui at noon – I find that almost startling in its honesty…

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