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A thick river of haze hovered over the Indo-Gangetic Plain in January 2013, casting a gray pall over northern India and Bangladesh.
On Jan. 10, 2012, NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this image of the haze hugging the Himalayas and spilling out into the Ganges delta and Bengal Sea. The haze likely resulted from a combination of urban and industrial pollution, agricultural fires and a meteorological phenomenon known as a temperature inversion.

Usually the air higher in the atmosphere is cooler than the air near the surface, a situation that allows warm air to rise and disperse pollutants. However, cold air often settles over northern India in the winter, trapping warmer air—and pollution—close to the surface, where it has the greatest impact on human health.

A study conducted by Tel Aviv University researchers and published in the American Journal of Climate Change found that levels of air pollution in large Indian cities increased at some of the fastest rates in the world between 2002 and 2010—faster even than rapidly growing Chinese cities.

Image courtesy of NASA.

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