A wall of dust was barreling across northern China on 23 April 2014, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) acquired this image from NASA's Aqua and Terra satellites. Photo: Jeff Schmaltz / LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC

By Holli Riebeek
25 April 2014

(NASA) – A wall of dust was barreling across northern China on 23 April 2014, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) acquired these images from NASA’s Aqua and Terra satellites. The top image was taken at 12:35 p.m. local time, and the lower image is from 2:20 p.m. Turn on the image comparison tool to see how far the dust advanced in the two hours between images.

Dust storms are common in the deserts of northern China, but they peak during the spring when large storms and weather fronts move in from Siberia. In this case, a very large front appears to be pushing east across Asia, kicking up dust ahead of it. On the ground, the dust brought visibility down to less than 50 meters (160 feet), veiling parts of northwest China in yellow haze.

The winds and resulting dust are widespread, since a dense airborne dust plume is visible under the clouds throughout the scene. The large storm also extended to the Taklimakan Desert (immediately southwest of the area shown here) on April 23, April 24, and April 25.

China’s Great Wall of Dust


By John Metcalfe
25 April 2014

It's not often that weather rolls in carrying a distinct "mouthfeel." Yet that's been the case the last few days in China, where a massive windstorm coated buildings, cars, and tongues with gritty desert dust.

Northern China's not unaccustomed to dust barrages triggered by Siberian weather fronts to the north. This one's a bit different: It moved eastward across the country with incredible speed and power. Look how far the leading dust-wall had surged in these NASA satellite images, taken on Wednesday at 12:35 p.m. local time and then 2:20 p.m.

The Chinese media is calling it the largest sandstorm to hit the region in a decade; NASA has settled for "China’s Great Wall of Dust." Cities and towns engulfed in the particle swell experienced visibility conditions of 60 to 160 feet, and the composition of the dust made the sky glow orangish-yellow, like the inside of a jack-o-lantern. In some places, trains were delayed, roads shut down, and school children kept at home until the cold front carrying the dust dissipated.

What's it like to be in the middle of one of these things? Footage from Wednesday in Gansu Province provides the answer – it's pretty miserable:

An Aerial View of China's Colossal Dust Storm

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