Average concentrations of air particulates in 189 Chinese cities fell by 10 percent in 2015, according to a new Greenpeace report, a sign that pollution overall was decreasing even as catastrophic levels of smog this winter in northern China effectively shut down schools and roads.

Overall pollution levels in Beijing were down for the second consecutive year but skyrocketed in December, when a thick gray soup enveloping the capital prompted the government to issue a first-ever “red alert” warning, limiting automobile use and closing schools. The Greenpeace study released Wednesday found the northern Chinese region surrounding Beijing has seen concentrations of microscopic PM2.5 particles drop by a quarter since 2013. Similar improvements were seen in the Yangtze and Pearl river delta areas around Shanghai and Guangzhou.

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