Tuesday, March 23, 2010

China Succumbs to the Creeping Desert

China is a big country, but it appears that its size and power cannot keep mother nature at bay as the western desert from the Mongolian region and the north seems to be starting a campaign against the country, claiming areas to the east as far as the coast, with dust and sand storms that grow in intensity near the spring season. The volume of dust is so great that the particles circle the globe and affect the quality of air in places as far as the United States! The dust makes for beautiful sunsets, but it's really a big problem.

From the satellite images shown here, you can see how much dust is being sent by the prevailing winds from the west. It forms a cyclone shape just below Beijing. You can see from the Google Maps screen-capture how big the whirling dust is. Beijing is the circular gray area in the middle of the picture near the top.

The encroachment of the desert has been a problem for years, with the government having spent a lot of money, time, and effort in planting trees to keep the desert from advancing. But apparently, the efforts are not enough and the dust that billows into the cities have caused problems. In Beijing, as well as other parts of China, travel has been limited due to poor visibility and of course, people now have to deal with dust in invading their respiratory system. People claim the dust gets on everything and because it mixes with industrial air pollution, it's become sticky.

It's not certain how long the dust will be coming in from the desert. But this invasion is likely to continue if the efforts in greening the desert fails. Thousands of years ago, the Sahara also experienced an expansion that caused much of the green areas to retreat, together with the animals and people that once lived there. Is the same phenomenon happening in China? Is it turning into a big desert like the Sahara is now? If that's the case, what will be the consequences? How will people adapt? 

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