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Sino Sandstorm: Earth Image of the Week March 26, 2010
Satellite Image of Chinese sandstorm.
A powerful low-pressure system whipped up China's second massive sandstorm in as many weeks.
Sandstorms raged across China, South Korea and even as far away as Japan for a second week, shrouding hundreds of cities in an unhealthful mixture of sand and grit.

The image to the right captured a middle-latitude cyclone responsible for massive walls of dust shortly after it passed near Beijing on the way toward North and South Korea.

A giant comma-shaped cloud typical of such low-pressure systems can be seen wrapped around the low — this time composed of sand rather than the moisture clouds normally associated with the features.

The sandstorm was so dense as the image was captured on March 20, 2010, that it even obscured the blue waters of the Yellow Sea and Bo Hai Sea from the view of NASA’s Terra satellite.

Chinese media urged people to seal their doors and windows, and to cover their face when venturing outside. Television reports showed viewers how to clean out their noses with salt water and to remove accumulated grit from their ears with cotton swabs.

Scientists says this month’s sandstorms have been brought on by a combination of deforestation and drought across northern and western parts of China, as well as in Mongolia.

Taiwan reported the worst sandstorm conditions on record when the wall of sand reached the island. Hospitals there reported a flood of patients complaining of respiratory problems and eye irritation due to the airborne particles.

The yellow clouds of dust that rage across East Asia during spring often accumulate heavy metals and other toxins while blowing over highly industrialized parts of China on their way toward the Korean peninsula and Japan.

Sand particles from the storms have been reported dimming the sun as far away as the North American West Coast.

Image: NASA