Most extensive sandstorm of the year hits Beijing and surrounding provinces, China

sandstorm china march 22 2023 0250z

Beijing and several other provinces in China were hit by the most extensive sandstorm of the year so far on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, causing thick clouds of sand to significantly reduce visibility and increase air pollution to hazardous levels.

The high winds and dust turned the sky a glaring tangerine color, reducing visibility to less than a few hundred meters in some areas.

Forecasters said the sandstorms, caused by changes in wind flow carrying loose particles across the largely arid region, are expected to gradually move south and weaken. However, the impact on air pollution is significant, and authorities have noted that the pollution is largely caused by PM10 particles, which can be inhaled and aggravate a range of health issues, including respiratory problems.

On Wednesday, the weather service issued a yellow warning (2 of 4) for dust across the north and northwest regions for 24 hours, with Beijing also receiving a yellow sandstorm warning.

sandstorm china march 22 2023 0610z
Image credit: JMA/NOAA/CIRA, Zoom Earth, The Watchers. Acquired at 06:10 UTC on March 22, 2023

Over the past days, the city has experienced sand and dust storms that have increased pollution levels drastically. On Wednesday, Beijing recorded an air quality index of 500, putting the pollution level at 6, which is considered very hazardous to human health, according to the Beijing Ecological Environment Monitoring Center. Some unofficial readings recorded the index twice that of the official reading.

Beijing regularly faces dust storms in March and April due to its proximity to the Gobi desert, as well as deforestation throughout northern China. The current storm is “the most extensive of the year so far,” according to the national weather service. With the health risks posed by the sandstorm, residents are being urged to take precautions to protect themselves and their families from the hazardous air pollution.


1 China: Sandstorms blanket Beijing as air pollution spikes – AFP – March 22, 2023

Featured image credit: JMA/NOAA/CIRA, Zoom Earth, The Watchers. Acquired at 02:50 UTC on March 22, 2023


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