Sandstorm hazard will be reduced, say experts

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 March, 2007, 12:00am

Fewer sandstorms will plague northern China this spring than in previous seasons, an expert from the China Meteorological Administration forecast yesterday.

Ai Wanxiu , a senior engineer from the administration's National Climate Centre, said that between 11 and 15 sandstorms were expected to hit northern China, including Xinjiang , between this month and May, down from last year's 18 and the average of 19 in past years.

Beijing, which last year saw a sandstorm dump more than 300,000 tonnes of dust overnight, would also have a comparatively clear spring, Ms Ai said in an online forum to mark World Meteorological Day.

She did not elaborate on any reasons for the reduction in sandstorm activity.

'Historical data shows us that sandstorms are declining, which has been felt by people living in Beijing for a long time,' she said. 'They are much less frequent than in the 1960s and 1970s - it is an obvious trend.'

Ren Guoyu , another expert from the centre, said the trend of desertification had been reversing slightly since 1998. He said sandstorms were mainly driven by nature although human activities contributed to their severity.

'We can plant trees and convert farmland into grassland to ease the damage caused by sandstorms,' Mr Ren said. 'But don't expect too much. It's impossible to stop them completely.'

Sandstorms powered by strong winds and fed by the deserts of Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia blow towards Beijing and the eastern seaboard each spring. Sometimes, the dust blows out across the Pacific, clouding the skies of South Korea and as far as the US.