Thursday Video: China’s sandstorms

Every spring, massive sandstorms whip through China's northern cities. As industrialization and farm growth have spread, the trees that hold back the country's gigantic deserts have spread. As a result, the Gobi is now at the footsteps of Beijing, while the Taklamakan Desert threatens to swallow China's north and west. One consequence of growing desertification ...

Every spring, massive sandstorms whip through China's northern cities. As industrialization and farm growth have spread, the trees that hold back the country's gigantic deserts have spread. As a result, the Gobi is now at the footsteps of Beijing, while the Taklamakan Desert threatens to swallow China's north and west.

Every spring, massive sandstorms whip through China's northern cities. As industrialization and farm growth have spread, the trees that hold back the country's gigantic deserts have spread. As a result, the Gobi is now at the footsteps of Beijing, while the Taklamakan Desert threatens to swallow China's north and west.

One consequence of growing desertification has been an increase in the frequency severity of the sandstorms, which can bring entire cities and regions to a standstill. This week's Thursday Video comes from the northwestern province of Qinghai, where particularly fierce sandstorms at times cut visibility to 100 meters:

The sandstorms are beginning to have wider effects internationally as well. This year Taiwan has reported environmental risks from dust clouds that originated in the Gobi. South Korea is feeling the added effect of industrial pollutants that the sand from Inner Mongolia picks up as it drifts over heavy industrial zones. The international community should be worried— assurances from Beijing notwithstanding—that the 2008 Olympics might be a very sandy affair. At least the beach volleyball squads should have a good time.

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