Ice chair train on a frozen lake

Photo: Feng Li/Getty Images

Taking a break from the smog

A train of tourists in ice chairs and ice bicycles skim across the surface of the frozen Houhai Lake on Feb. 3 in Beijing, China.

After kicking off the year with several weeks of hazardous, record-breaking air pollution, people in Beijing are taking advantage of a brief respite from the smog, which lifted slightly after the city was blanketed with snow on Sunday.

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Lanterns illuminate a frozen lake where people are riding ice chairs

Photo: Feng Li/Getty Images

Night skating

Lanterns illuminate the silhouettes of people riding in ice chairs and ice bicycles on Feb. 3 across the froen Houhai Lake in Beijing.

Smog levels have ranged from "unhealthy" to "hazardous" since the beginning of January, prompting authorities to temporarily shut down more than 100 factories throughout the city and take 30 percent of government vehicles off the roads.
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Couple on an ice chair skate on a frozen lake

Photo: Feng Li/Getty Images

Smoggy date

A man rides an ice bicycle as a woman hitches a ride on the back on Feb. 3 at Houhai Lake in Beijing.

On a smog index that measures the amount of particulate matter in the air, it's common for the air in Beijing to exceed the 500 mark. The U.S. embassy in Beijing recently recorded a jawdropping 517, which literally classifies the pollution as "Beyond Index."

To put this in perspective, any particulate measurement over 300 is considered "hazardous," and the World Health Organization recommends a maximum particulate level of 20 for the air quality to actually be considered safe and healthy.

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Child rides in a rickshaw pulled by a robot

Photo: Feng Li/Getty Images

Robot rickshaw

A little girl drives a robot rickshaw across the frozen Houhai Lake.

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Catie Leary ( @catieleary ) writes about science, travel, animals and the arts.

Beijing gets temporary gasp of fresh air [Photos]
Residents spend precious time outdoors after weekend snow dispersed the air pollution that has gripped the capital for weeks.