Beijing reports heavy pollution as largest sandstorms of 2023 blanket northern China
Published: Mar 21, 2023 12:24 PM
Photo: Li Hao/GT

 Beijing reports high pollution levels on March 22, 2023 as the largest sandstorms of 2023 sweep across northern China from March 21, 2023. Photo: Li Hao/GT

As yellow sand fills the sky with an earthy smell, Beijing reported heavily reduced air quality on Wednesday amid the arrival of the largest sandstorms of 2023 sweeping across northern China from Tuesday. 

The forecast sandstorms entered Beijing early on Wednesday morning at high speed from Mongolia and North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region with the maximum covering area at nearly 1 million square kilometers, with the PM 10 surpassing 1,400 microgram per cubic meter across the whole city at 8am, according to the Beijing Ecological and Environmental Monitoring Center.

The Beijing Meteorological Bureau on Wednesday issue alerts for sandstorms and high winds, reminding people to be aware of possible falling objects. The sandstorm is predicted ease after noon and before dying off in the evening.

People could even see a "blue sun" in the dim Beijing sky on Wednesday morning. Experts explained that it is the dusty weather that changes the composition of the particles in the air.

The particles absorb longer wavelengths of red light, while didn't affect the shorter wavelengths of blue light, which gives the sun a blue tinge, experts noted

Affected by cold air, sandstorms and high winds will sweep eastward across the north and northeast parts of China from Tuesday, likely to cause the most severe sandstorm weather to hit China in 2023, said China's top meteorological authority on Tuesday morning. 

Photo: Li Hao/GT

Photo: Li Hao/GT

China's National Meteorological Center (NMC) issued a third-level yellow sandstorm warning in more than 10 provinces, saying that the weather will be sandy and dusty across Tuesday to Wednesday in the south part of Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, as well as in the northweat part of China including Qinghai, Gansu, Ningxia, Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Hebei, Beijing, Tianjin, Heilongjiang, Liaoning and Jilin. 

NMC's chief forecaster Zhang Tao said the dusty weather formed because the frequent cold air systems and high winds carrying sand from Mongolia, China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Gansu Province where the ground loosened due to sunshine as the temperatures rose in spring.

As this latest sandstorm is the third and to date the largest one to hit the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, meteorological analyst Zhang Juan from the China Weather Network explained the increase in blowing sand and dust this year, saying that most of China's northern parts have seen little rainfall since March and there is no snow cover across Mongolia and China's northwest region due to higher temperatures.

"This means once the cold air arrives, sand is picked up in these regions and forms into sandstorms," Zhang Juan said.

Besides the sandstorms in northern China, cold air also caused the largest scale of strong convective weather in Southern China in this year as it travels southwards. From Tuesday to Thursday, East China's Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Fujian provinces and South China's Guangdong Province may suffer from heavy rain, high winds, thunderstorms and hail.