Date: Wed, 17.03.21 12:00
MODIS Pic of the Day 17 March 2021
Dust storms commonly occur across Asia in springtime. But
meteorological spring is just getting underway, and already an enormous
plume of sand and dust has blanketed northern China. It has been called
the largest and strongest such storm to strike the region in a decade.
The dust reportedly grounded at least 400 airline flights in the
Beijing region and six deaths have been attributed to the dust storm.
The dust is visible in this natural-color image, acquired on March 15,
2021, with the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on
NASA’s Aqua satellite.
The plume appears to originate from the Taklamakan Desert in northwest
China. The dry, barren area is a major source of airborne dust that can
travel especially high and far on the strong winds of spring. From the
Taklamakan, the dust moved eastward for thousands of kilometers.
“Using NASA’s satellite data, we’re able to track the dust’s
said Hiren Jethva, a Universities Space Research Association (USRA)
scientist based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. In addition to
natural-color imagery, Jethva tracks dust and smoke using satellite
measurements of the UV aerosol index. Those data indicate that the dust
moved along a west-to-east path. It then turned, following a cyclonic
circulation in the atmosphere, and was lofted to an altitude above the
cloud layer. Scientists have previously showed that aerosols above the
clouds can have important consequences for the climate.
In areas where the dust stays close to the ground, such storms can
diminish air quality. That was the case in Beijing, where the high
concentration of particles caused air quality to reach well into the
“hazardous” level of the Air Quality Index. Dust tinted the sky orange,
reducing visibility to less than 1000 meters (3,280 feet).
In addition to the unusual magnitude and early season timing of the
event, Jethva noted that it is uncommon for dust storms to grow so
large so fast. Satellite images from March 14 show no signs of dust
transport; one day later, the event had developed into a widespread,
severe storm. News reports called for the dust storm to gradually
weaken through the rest of the week.
Additional imagery can be viewed at NASA's Earth Observatory by
Date Acquired: 3/15/2021
Resolutions: 1km (311.2 KB), 500m (5.5 MB), 250m (3.2 MB)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC
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