In mid-March and mid-April, northern China, including Beijing, was hit by the strongest sandstorms this decade.
According to the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, on March 15, PM10 concentration reached 8108 µg/m³ in urban districts of Beijing. PM10 refers to the inhalable airborne particulate matters with a diameter of 10 microns or less. A PM10 concentration under 54 µg/m³ is considered healthy, and a concentration above 605 µg/m³ is considered hazardous.
The last sandstorm in Beijing happened six years ago, so the recent strong and frequent sandstorms begged the question: why did they come back again this year?
“The meteorological conditions this year have been especially suitable for the occurrence of sand and dust storms. There has been higher temperature and less precipitation than the corresponding period in Mongolia and Inner Mongolia, China. These led to the loosening of surface sand and soil,” said Zhang Bihui from the China Meteorological Administration.
In addition to particular conditions subject to this year, according to environmental NGO Greenpeace, the recent sandstorms originated from Mongolia, where desertification is a serious issue. In the past 30 years, human activities such as the irrational use of pastures and disorderly mineral development combined with climate change have led to continuous land degradation and desertification. The soil can no longer hold on to the land, leading to adverse weather such as sandstorms.
To raise public awareness and combat environmental issues, many social organisations have taken the lead.
For example, Greenpeace has been actively monitoring environmental policies and conditions within East Asia and worldwide, researching environmental phenomenon and providing the public with educational content on various issues, such as climate change and forest protection. Besides knowledge sharing and research, Friends of Nature has also advocated for the reconnection between people and nature.
“We only have limited knowledge of nature, and we still have a long and hard way to go,” commented Zhao Yingmin from the Ministry of Ecology and Environment. The recent sandstorms reminded the public that we still face serious challenges in the ecosystem’s fragility, and we should continue to act in the interests of environmental protection.