Dust stirred in the Taklimakan Desert on March 12, 2011 as the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite passed overhead. This natural-color image shows pinpoint plumes along the desert’s western margin fanning out toward the east-southeast. Over the eastern half of the desert, clouds float overhead, casting dark shadows onto the sea of dust below.
The Taklimakan Desert sits in the Tarim Basin, located between the mountain ranges of the Tien Shan (or Tian Shan) in the north, and the Kunlun Shan in the south. The Taklimakan is the largest and hottest desert in China. Isolated from the Asian monsoon and Arctic storms, the desert is deprived of moisture. Largely devoid of vegetation, sand dunes cover some 85 percent of the desert floor.