All I Want for Christmas is Clean Air

In China, over 1.3 billion people have high health risks associated with exposure to ambient fine particulate matter (PM2.5). The data says that the air quality in major cities in China exceeds the World Health Organization (WHO) Air Quality Guidelines (AQG). However, it is hard for people in the U.S. to experience that. 

About the PM2.5, I experience it myself. This is a real story:

In 2015, during the fall break, I went back to my hometown, a city near Beijing. Unfortunately, I experienced the days with severe PM2.5 pollution. I could hardly see the building next to me. I need to hold my breath and reduce the outdoor time. Even worse, my flight back to Guangzhou was canceled.

We want to tell the story because we want people who have never been in a city with severe PM 2.5 air pollution to be able to imagine what it is like to breathe in such an environment. In order to show that, we choose 3 cities: Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu to form our story and create snow globes for each city. Each snow globe is filled with a certain amount of glitter to represent the 2017 average PM 2.5 amounts in each city normalized to the area of each city. This visualization would be an interactive experience. First, from the information box, the audience could know answer the question themselves. Then, we let the audience guess and rank the cities 1 to 4 from most to least polluted. Finally, the audience could shake the snow globes to see what the air pollution looks like visually and the answer is revealed as they pick up the globes.

The goal of this visualization is to quantify air pollution measured in PM 2.5 and to educate people about what PM2.5 really is. Many people are aware that air pollution is bad, but they are not familiar with the concept of PM 2.5. The particles in the air do not make it harder to breathe, but instead, breathing in a lot of these particles into the body can result in serious health effects.

We chose the presentation in the form of snow globes because it is an item that most people are familiar with and the reveal when the globes are shaken provide a nice surprise element. The black glitter was chosen to represent PM 2.5 because the metaphor of black particles as hazardous to health gives off a warning sign.

We would like this visualization to be an exhibit in a museum where people can interact with the snow globes. The snow globes are relatively small and the skyline is not easy to see clearly, so ideally we would have live video cameras that project onto a large screen, so when people pick up and shake the snow globes, they can see an enlarged version of the snow globes on a big screen and can clearly see what the skylines look like covered in the black glitter. Furthermore, if we could gather more data, we can make globes for more cities in China or even cities around the world.

What is PM2.5?

By Haley Meisenholder, Jay Dev, Yihang Sui, Kunyi Li