The dust cloud over eastern Asia was so thick on March 21, 2002, that the Korean Peninsula completely disappeared from view in this Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) image of the region. Parts of South Korea report that visibility at the surface is less than 50 m (165 feet). Airports throughout the region canceled flights due to the poor visibility.
Eyewitnesses in China report that the dust was so thick in Beijing at times that visibility was limited to 100 m (330 feet), while in parts of the Gansu Province visibility was reported at less than 10 m (33 feet). Chinese officials say this is the worst dust storm to hit in more than 10 years.
Dust from an earlier event still colors the air to the east of Japan. (The island of Honshu
is just peeking out from under the cloud cover
in these images.)
Image courtesy the SeaWiFS Project,
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, and ORBIMAGE
March often brings an increase in dust storms to East Asia, and 2008 proved no exception. In early March 2008, the characteristic “yellow dust” from the Gobi Desert blew eastward over the Beijing region, the Yellow Sea, and North and South Korea.
Dust blowing off the Gobi desert eastward across the China toward the Pacific Ocean is a common event in April. Space Shuttle astronauts have photographed these dusts storms several times. These photographs, taken by astronauts on April 25, 1990, show a thick blanket of dust that entirely obscures the southern half of the Korean Peninsula. The dust is being transported from west (left) to east (right). The mountainous spine of the peninsula induces gravity waves in the dust cloud on the downwind (east) side.
Dust remained in the air another day, two days after a major dust storm struck northern Africa on February 23, 2006. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) flying onboard the Terra satellite captured this image on February 25. By the time this image was acquired, the dust had moved toward the northeast over the Mediterranean Sea.