Special Sub-Topic: Smug About Smog
|London had been known for its smoggy air long before the 'Great Smog' of 1952 which claimed many lives. Which two words are combined to make the word 'smog', and in what order?|
smoke and fog & smoke fog. The word 'smog' is believed to have originated with Dr Henry Des Voeux who published a paper in the early 20th century on the subject called 'Fog and Smoke'. Such words are called portmanteau words. Avionics (aviation and electronics) and pixel (pixel and element) are two other examples.
London smog was caused mainly by emissions from coal fires and factory chimneys mixing with the mists and fogs rising from the River Thames. The resulting smog was potentially lethal and caused many respiratory complaints in the population. It was not, however, until the 'Great Smog' of 1952, the biggest single environmental incident to have affected the capital, that public awareness of its dangers was raised, which led to changes in legislation.
|From the early 1800s a new term was coined for the smog that plagued London. What was this descriptive expression?|
The London Particular. The source of the phrase is uncertain but it is believed to have originated around 1807. Charles Dickens used the phrase in his novel 'Bleak House' (published in instalments between 1852-53). London's fogs and smogs quite literally gave an atmospheric backdrop to many novels of the Victorian era; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle also used this to great effect in his Sherlock Holmes stories, and who can forget the eeriness given to the fog-bound London streets by Robert Louis Stevenson in his brilliant novel 'Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde', published in 1886.
|Unfortunately, air pollution has been around for centuries. So badly affected was London in the early 14th century that King Edward I actually banned the use of domestic coal fires in the capital. |
t. Surprisingly, this is true. The London fogs, known as 'pea-soup' or 'pea-soupers', were so severe that in 1306 the King tried to ban coal fires, and pressed for charcoal or wood to be used instead as had been the case in the past, but the ban was short-lived and ultimately failed. The problem was further highlighted over 300 years later in 1661, when writer John Evelyn's wrote of his concerns over pollution from coal fires in his work 'Fumifugium', but his warnings were not heeded. Edward I was not the only monarch to attempt to ban coal fires; Queen Elizabeth I also tried unsuccessfully to ban or limit the use of coal.
|London's 'Great Smog' of 1952 was the UK's worst case of air pollution, with approximately 4,000 people dying from its effects during the five days it brought the city to a standstill, with many more deaths to follow. During which month did this occur?|
December. London's 'Great Smog' lasted from 5th to 9th December 1952. There were several contributing factors, among them a spell of cold weather causing more coal fires to be lit than usual, no wind to disperse the smog, traffic pollution and heavy output from London's factories and coal-fired power stations. The smog caused bus and taxi services to be curtailed, although the Underground was still functional. It even infiltrated cinemas and theatres, which led to them being closed for the duration. It is uncertain exactly how many more people lost their lives as a result of the smog during the few months after the event, but it is estimated that a further 8,000 or more died, and some estimates put the figure considerably higher. Babies and young children, the elderly and people with chronic respiratory health issues formed the majority of those affected.
|In the few weeks prior to the 'Great Smog' of 1952 the weather conditions in London had not been as expected for the time of year. How had it varied?
much colder than normal. The weather in London had been markedly colder than usual for early December. During this unexpected cold snap the use of coal for domestic heating had increased dramatically. Coal used in post-war Britain tended to be of a lower quality as the better grades of coal were exported. The coal in use during this period was therefore higher in sulphur which, when burnt, increased the levels of sulphur dioxide in the atmosphere. This, coupled with an anticyclone and almost no wind to disperse the smog, allowed it to build up to unprecedented levels. Visibility was so severely restricted that schools were closed and traffic brought to a standstill. In some parts of London it was so bad that people became disorientated just trying to cross the road or find their way home.
|Although all of London suffered from the effects of the 'Great Smog' of 1952, which area of London was the most badly affected?|
East End. London's East End was most badly affected because it was much more densely populated, hence more coal fires were burning. Also, many houses in the area were not so well insulated, so the smog and sooty particles seeped inside more easily. The smog was so thick and the air so still that the smog was not dispersing, so it covered the area like an impenetrable cloud.
|People in London were used to the frequent smogs that befell the city, so at first there was not too much alarm at the arrival of the 'Great Smog' in 1952. The first sign that this smog was out of the ordinary was noted not among the human population but amongst which group of animals?
cattle at Smithfield Market. Smog was a regular occurrence in London, so at the outset of the 'Great Smog' people were not unduly concerned, just assuming the latest 'pea-souper' was rather more severe than normal. It was only when cattle in the Smithfield butchers' market started to become asphyxiated and die that it was realised that the smog could have more serious consequences. Another early sign of the severity of the smog was when undertakers realised they were running out of coffins as there was higher demand. Florists too were finding themselves in a similar predicament as flowers were in short supply for funeral wreaths.
|The 'Great Smog' of 1952 gave rise to London's nickname, a nickname that is also shared with other big industrialised cities around the world. What is this nickname?|
The Big Smoke. The industrialisation of London and resultant pollution had given rise to its nickname since the late 19th century, but after the Great Smog of 1952 the nickname became more widely used. Nowadays several other cities worldwide share the nickname. In the modern world the chief causes of smog are no longer coal fires but vehicle emissions and industrialisation.
|Shortly prior to the 'Great Smog' of 1952 which significant event earlier in the year had contributed to higher levels of pollution in London due to increased emissions from motor vehicles?
retirement of electric trams and introduction of diesel-fuelled buses. The first electric trams were used in London from 1901, but took a while to catch on; it was not until 1903 that they were more commonplace. Trams were gradually phased out and replaced by buses, which ran on diesel, from 1950 and the last tram 'retired' amid great nostalgia and publicity on 6 July 1952. All this led to a big increase in traffic and the ensuing exhaust fumes in the capital from the new buses and motor cars alike. The good news is that trams are now gradually making a comeback in London and other cities, and several new services are planned for the future.
After London's tram service was discontinued many of the disused trams were transported to the National Tramway Museum in Crich, near Matlock, Derbyshire, which is well worth a visit. It has many examples of old electric trams, some of which are still working, and it is possible to once again experience a nostalgic tram ride.
|In 1956 the British Government brought in an Act of Parliament to establish smokeless areas in London. What was the name of this Act?
Clean Air Act. The Clean Air Act 1956 was brought in by Parliament as a direct result of the Great Smog of 1952 in an attempt to lessen what had become a serious environmental problem in London. In an effort to greatly reduce air pollution due to coal fires, these were banned in urban areas and only smokeless fuels were allowed to be burnt. This resulted in a swift improvement in air quality. Another important part of the new legislation was to move coal-fired power stations away from the cities to rural areas. The Act was further updated in 1968 and again in 1993.
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