On January 30, 2005, dust filled the bowl of the Taklimakan Desert in western China. The low-lying basin is ringed by towering mountains to the north and south; these mountains steal almost all the precipitation passing through the region, leaving the Taklimakan bone dry. Dust storms, shifting sand dunes, and desert expansion are serious concerns for the people living in the area.
This pair of images from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite shows the desert brewing with dust (top) as well as on a clear day in November 2002. The high-resolution image provided above is the January 30 image at a spatial resolution of 500 meters per pixel. The MODIS Rapid Response System provides the January 30 and November 2 images at additional resolutions.