Dust in Northwestern China

Dust in Northwestern China

Dust ringed the Taklimakan Desert of northwestern China on April 25, 2010. The light-colored dust is mostly smooth, though waves ripple the surface in the southwest, reflecting turbulence in the air. The low dust also conforms to the shape of the land in the northwest. Squiggly lines in the dust cloud are the clear peaks of the foothills of the Tien Shan mountains, which form the northern edge of the Tarim Basin. Some of the dust appears to be blowing east, perhaps continuing an extensive dust storm from the previous day.

Enclosed by the Tien Shan Range in the north and the Kunlun Shan and Altun Shan in the south, the Tarim Basin receives very little rainfall. Much of the basin is a vast, sandy desert, the Taklimakan. Covering 272,000 square kilometers, the Taklimakan Desert is among the world’s largest deserts. Water flows into the basin from the mountains, feeding ephemeral lakes and marshes, and some more permanent rivers. Dark green, plant-covered land marks the course of the water across the desert in this image.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image on April 25, 2010. The large image is the highest-resolution version of the image. The MODIS Rapid Response Team provides the image in additional resolutions.

NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Holli Riebeek.

References & Resources

  • Prospero, J. M., Ginoux, P., Torres, O., Nicholson, S.E., and Gill, T.E. (2002). Environmental characterization of global sources of atmospheric soil dust identified with the NIMBUS 7 Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) absorbing aerosol product. Reviews of Geophysics, 40(1). doi:10.1029/2000RG000095