Get it straight, Delhi. That’s not fog. It’s smog.

It’s the time of the year when the Indian media start writing about predictions for Delhi’s winter fog. Poisonous, toxic “fog.”

Which really makes it not fog at all, but smog. This year there may be 100 hundred dismal hours of it.

Delhi, it’s time we owned up to it. Call a spade a spade and start thinking about how to fix the problem. And to be clear, the problem is us.

Yes, weather plays a small part, but as I’ve written before, what makes the wintry choking haze particularly harmful is in fact human pollution. I’m not alone in arguing that we actually need to shift our discourse and talk about the phenomenon as anthropogenic smog, not just annoying wintry smog.

And new research shows it’s worse than you ever thought. During rush hour, pollution (particulate matter) at autorickshaw-level — where most people breathe — is apparently 50 percent higher than all what is measured by those safely cloistered ambient air measuring stations on top of buildings and away from roads.

And, in case anyone needs a reminder, even the ambient air readings aren’t exactly awesome. In fact, they’re exactly not awesome.

At least India can claim to beat both Pakistan and China in this regard:

Delhi’s air pollution levels, which, according to the latest WHO Ambient Air Pollution Database, are at just under 300 micrograms per cubic meter. The world’s second most polluted city, Karachi, clocks in at a little over 250, while the major Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai, internationally notorious for their pollution, clock in a relatively fresh 120 and 80 respectively.

(Really not the race we want to be winning.)

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Mist shrouds the woods of Sikkim

Foggy days

Sikkim is a wet, misty place this time of year. Monsoon apparently struck early.

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Misty foothills of south Sikkim

The view from my school of the Bhuriakhop valley

The school where I “teach” is tucked away near the end of a valley along winding mountain road. At about 6,000 feet, we’re officially the foothills of the Himalayas.

The topography of the area also means that clouds roll into the valley destroying visibility on many days. I’ve been on a few jogs now where I can’t see more than 10 meters at midday.

The monsoons have also come early this year, according to my local colleagues, so most days are wet, misty and gray. Every now and then, we get sun for a few minutes or hours (as above) but mostly we’re shrouded in fog and cloud (as below).

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Delhi’s ghost fog



Above, my roommate, Rachel, climbs on the weird playground equipment not far from our apartment.

Delhi has been overcome with temperature inversion-inducing fog in recent weeks. The mess has been compounded by the fact that Delhi is dusty from its ongoing renovation.

Flights have been cancelled, accidents have occurred, we became lost briefly during a stroll through the wicked atmospheric soup.

It’s awesome.

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