A new time-lapse taken over the course of just 20 minutes shows the mind-boggling extent of Beijing’s ongoing pollution problem.

The Chinese capital is in the midst of an intense smog alert, resulting in highway closures and hundreds of flight cancellations. Earlier today, poor visibility forced three major northern ports to suspend the loading of ships. Pollution alerts are common at this time of year in northern China, as residents turn to coal during the cold winter months.

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YouTube’s Chas Pope captured this time-lapse video of the smog as it rolled in, writing: “It’s already gone viral on the Chinese internet, let’s see what happens internationally.”

As bad as this looks, city officials say the air quality in China is steadily improving. The country recently declared a “war on pollution,” cutting down coal consumption, shutting down polluting factories, and ordering nearly half a million obsolete high-emitting vehicles off the road last year, just to name a few measures. Ironically, China’s pollution problems are now spurring it to become a world leader with respect to environmental clean-up.

[Reuters]