The Great Smog of 1952

Londoners are no stranger to the cold, but on the morning of December 5, 1952, the sting of winter was felt worse than ever. The cold had the British capital on a grip for weeks, and that morning a temperature inversion had caused the chilled and stagnant air to get trapped close to the ground, causing temperature to drop even further.

As the city began to wake up, coal fireplaces were lighted in homes and businesses across the city to take the chill out of the morning air. Smoke from these hearths, as well as soot from London’s numerous factories and exhaust from automobiles combined with the cold air to create a thick, blackish-yellow fog. By nightfall, the fog became so bad that visibility dropped to a few meters. In some areas, people couldn’t see their own feet. It was “like somebody had set a load of car tires on fire.”

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The Great Smog of 1952

Trafalgar Square in London during the Great Smog of 1952. Photo: TopFoto / The Image Works


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