The "Great Smog" of 1952 blanketed London and was responsible for more than 4,000 deaths.

Photograph by N. T. Stobbs, courtesy Wikimedia. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Download this file

  • On December 4, 1952, people in London, England, began to suffer respiratory illnesses after breathing thick smog. This deadly weather event, the Great Smog, would last almost a week and cost between 4,000-10,000 lives. Smog is a type of air pollution, created by industrial output and natural weather patterns. London’s reliance on coal-fired power plants for electricity and heat, and diesel-powered buses for public transportation, contributed to the Great Smog.

    London’s physical geography and weather also contributed to the Great Smog. The city is contained a large river valley, limiting air circulation. In addition, a mass of cold air blanketed the region the night before, trapping the valley’s warmer air below. This warmer air was very high in pollution from homes, cars, and factories.

    The Great Smog of 1952 caused the United Kingdom to enact stricter laws about air pollution. Many cities around the world have tried to limit how much pollution is in the air. However, smog is still a problem in cities such as Mexico City, Beijing, and Los Angeles.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    air pollution Noun

    harmful chemicals in the atmosphere.

    Encyclopedic Entry: air pollution
    coal Noun

    dark, solid fossil fuel mined from the earth.

    diesel Noun

    oil or other fuel used in diesel engines, emitting a low, constant temperature.

    electricity Noun

    set of physical phenomena associated with the presence and flow of electric charge.

    industrial Adjective

    having to do with factories or mechanical production.

    power plant Noun

    industrial facility for the generation of electric energy.

    public transportation Noun

    methods of movement that are available to all community members for a fee, and which follow a fixed route and schedule: buses, subways, trains and ferries.

    river valley Noun

    depression in the earth caused by a river eroding the surrounding soil.

    smog Noun

    type of air pollution common in manufacturing areas or areas with high traffic.

    Encyclopedic Entry: smog
    weather Noun

    state of the atmosphere, including temperature, atmospheric pressure, wind, humidity, precipitation, and cloudiness.

    Encyclopedic Entry: weather