Chinese Traffic Restrictions Reduce Air Pollution
Traffic throughout the Houston area on Sept. 22, 2005 was very heavy as residents left town before Hurricane Rita arrived.
Credit: AP Photo/Paul Sancya

A dress rehearsal of traffic restrictions for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in China cut Beijing’s emissions of an important class of atmospheric pollutants by up to 40 percent, recent satellite observations show.

The city is attempting to slash smog and airborne contaminants before they host the Olympics.

The restrictions resulted in taking about 800,000 of Beijing’s 2.82 million vehicles off the road during a summit meeting on China-Africa cooperation from Nov. 4-6, 2006.

Observations showed that emissions of NOx, or nitrogen oxides, which are formed during combustion and thought to contribute to global warming, dropped during the conference.

“We expected a drop in nitrogen emissions, but not to this extent, and after only a short period of time,” said study team member Yuxuan Wang of Harvard University.

The findings were presented in the April 28 issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters.