Dust Storm in the Taklimakan Desert

Dust Storm in the Taklimakan Desert

One day after a severe dust storm broke out in the Taklimakan Basin, dust lingered over the region. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this natural-color image on April 24, 2012. The dust was thickest over the northern half of the desert. Although dust hung in the air over the southern part of the desert, it was thin enough to allow a glimpse of vegetation along the Taklimakan’s southern rim.

The Taklimakan Desert fills the Tarim Basin of far western China, situated between mountain ranges in the northwest and southwest. Located far from the ocean, the basin is cut off from the effects of the Asian monsoon, and surrounding mountains block Arctic storms. As a result, the Taklimakan Desert receives little precipitation, and because the basin lacks drainage, salt accumulates along with sand. Shifting sand dunes cover most of the desert floor, providing ample material for dust storms that blow eastward over China.

NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, Goddard Space Flight Center. Caption by Michon Scott.

References & Resources

  • World Wildlife Fund, McGinley, M. (2007). Taklimakan Desert. Encyclopedia of Earth. Accessed April 24, 2012.