The kickoff to spring last week began with some massive sand storms in Asia and off the coast of Africa. Spring dust and sand storms are common there, but this one was a doosy. Winds blowing from the northwest swept sand across the country, affecting Xinjiang in the far west all the way to Beijing in the country's east. The sand and dust were carried to parts of southern China and even to cities in Taiwan, 1600 miles away from Inner Mongolia where much of the pollution originated.
The sandstorm in Taiwan forced people to cover their faces to avoid breathing in the grit that can cause chest discomfort and respiratory problems even in healthy people. Drivers complained their cars were covered in a layer of black soot in just 10 minutes.
Here are some photos from space of the sand being blown about. The first two show it over China and, a few days later, over Japan. The last one is of a sand storm off Africa. (Images courtesy NASA's MODIS Satellite Program.)
Ever wonder what it's like to be in the middle of one of those? Here are some YouTube videos that have a good illustration. They're not from this current dust storm, but an earlier storm in Australia: