Contact: International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas Institution: International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA)
Dust and sandstorm (DSS) is the generic term for a phenomenon in Northeast Asia by which strong winds blow a large quantity of dust and fine sand particles away from the ground and carry them over a long distance with severe environmental impacts along the way. This article reviews some of the measures and outlines a strategy to combat DSS.
Author: Victor R. Squires
Dryland Management consultant, Adelaide, Australia
Dust and sandstorm (DSS) is the generic term for a serious environmental phenomenon in Northeast Asia. DSS involves strong winds that blow a large quantity of dust and fine sand particles away from the ground and carry them over a long distance with severe environmental impacts along the way, and often with serious impacts in the countries downwind of the DSS source. Both the Korean Peninsular and Japan are the recipients of this dust that can, under some circumstances, carry as far as North America. The major sources of DSS in the region are believed to be the desert and semi-desert areas of the People’s Republic of China and Mongolia. DSS can be thought of as non-point source (NPS) pollution. Unlike pollution from industrial and sewage treatment plants, comes from many diffuse sources. In environmental management literature, NPS pollution often refers to those problems caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground. As the runoff moves, it picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, finally depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, and so on. DSS represents a NPS pollution problem. Because our knowledge about the sources and movement paths of sandy dust is incomplete, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact point source of the dust. Dust storms sweep across northern China and the Korean peninsula each spring, thanks to seasonal wind patterns. Since DSS has no regard for national boundaries, it is typically viewed as transboundary pollution. When DSS particles are finally deposited in their destinations, their environmental impacts are felt in areas far removed from their sources. The various forms of dust and sand storms are discussed and the forces that favor the onset of DSS are outlined. DSS are the result of the interaction of climate, geography soil type and human actions. Climate and weather patterns play a major role. Southern Mongolia and northern PRC, the source of most dust and sand, have a continental climate and are located far from the influence of oceans. In PRC this is coupled with the influence of a fringing chain of high mountains such as the Tian Shan and the Kunlun in Xinjiang and the Tibetan plateau and the Qilian mountains further east. These cause a rain shadow effect that leads to desert conditions on their leeward side. Similar influences are observed in western and southern Mongolia. Prevention and control of DSS will be a long and difficult task and one that requires cooperation between several countries in the region. The present article reviews some of the measures and outlines a strategy to combat DSS in northeast Asia.
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© International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), 2006
Eighth International Conference on Dryland Development