For a time, social media has been buzzing with videos of a Chinese city, Dunhuang, being blasted by a sandstorm that reached a height of over 100 meters in the nation's northwestern region.

(Photo : Getty Images)

Dunhuang Under Sandstorm

The city, which is located on the edge of the Gobi desert, is regularly subjected to extreme weather conditions. As a result, the city was left reeling under a heavy blanket of dust in the aftermath. The incident was captured on video and shows a towering wall of sand gently crashing towards houses and roadways.

However, the city's visibility remained low, with few structures and buildings visible at the moment. The sandstorm wreaked havoc on the city, causing a slew of problems for people.

Pedestrians were compelled to protect their eyes due to the dusty gusts that blew across the downtown streets. The heavy dust also contained dangerous particles, making life difficult for several residents, particularly the elderly, and lung problems.

Sandstorm Frequency

After being engulfed by two sandstorms in as many weeks, Beijing, China's capital, started a month-long effort to stamp out air pollution offenses.

As dust carrying exceptionally high amounts of dangerous particles swept in from Mongolia and northwest China, Beijing's air quality index (AQI) hit the maximum 500.

According to China's meteorological agency, the city was struck by the worst sandstorm in a decade in mid-March.

Related Article: Dust Storm Caused by Northwest Winds Hits Beijing Earlier than Expected

What are Sandstorms?

Gobi Desert
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

A dust storm, often known as a sandstorm, is a weather phenomenon that frequently occurs in arid and semi-arid areas. Dust storms form when a strong wind, such as a gust front, sweeps loose sand and dirt from a dry surface. Saltation and suspension, a technique that transfers soil from one location to another, is used to transport fine particles.

The largest terrestrial sources of airborne dust are drylands in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Poor management of the Earth's drylands, such as ignoring the fallow system, is increasing the magnitude and frequency of dust storms along desert borders, altering local and global climates, and affecting regional economies.

Sandstorms are most commonly associated with desert dust storms, particularly in the Sahara Desert and other areas where sand is a more common soil type than dirt or rock, and when, in addition to fine particles obstructing visibility, a significant amount of larger sand particles are blown closer to the surface.

When finer particles are blown great distances, the term dust storm is more commonly used, significantly when the dust storm impacts metropolitan areas.

Potential Environmental Impact

Beijing Is Attacked By A Terrible Sandstorm
(Photo : Getty Images)

Aerosols, especially mineral dust, have an influence on the weather as well as the global and regional climate. Dust particles function as condensation nuclei for warm cloud production and as effective ice nuclei agents for cold cloud formation, especially when covered by pollutants.

Dust particles' capacity to function is determined by their size, shape, and composition, which are determined by the type of parent soils, emissions, and transportation mechanisms.

Clouds' capacity to absorb solar radiation is affected by changes in their microphysical composition, which indirectly impacts the amount of energy reaching the Earth's surface. Dust particles also alter the development of cloud droplets and ice crystals, affecting precipitation amounts and locations.

Also Read: Saharan "Godzilla" Dust Storm Spotted Heading to Florida

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