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More sandstorms feared this year

[ 2009-02-18 11:39]     字号 [] [] []  
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More sandstorms will hit North China this spring than last year thanks to the worst drought in half a century, meteorology experts said yesterday.

"The increasing expanse of arid land will create more dust," said Li Weijing, deputy director of the National Meteorological Center.

"But the frequency and scale of sandstorms will still be below the average of the past few years," Li told China Daily.

Two of the main climatic and weather factors that cause sandstorms are arid land and atmospheric circulation. Strong winds generated by atmospheric circulation carry dust and sand from arid areas, gathering speed in the absence of trees, other vegetation, or man-made barriers such as rows and rows of tall buildings.

The severe drought has left many parts of North and Central China without precipitation - one reason why Beijing had not experienced any snowfall this winter until yesterday. Beijing's suburbs received some snow on December 10 and 23, though.

It began snowing in the capital early in the morning, driving the temperature below zero even during the day, the city's meteorological bureau said. This was the second precipitation this winter, as it had rained on Thursday.

Meteorology officials, however, said Thursday's drizzle was not enough to combat the drought, hence the warning on sandstorms.

Sandstorms usually occur between March and May, with nine of them hitting the country last year. However, there were fewer than the average of 13.4 in recent years and weaker, too, the State Forestry Administration (SFA) said.

Sandstorms that hit the country originate either in Northwest China, the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, or Mongolia, Li said. And more such storms have been forecast this year because the drought has expanded the area of dry land.

Hebei, Shanxi, Anhui, Jiangsu, Henan, Shandong, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces have been the worst hit by the drought, and the parched land there will act as a catalyst for the storms.

Moreover, the dry spell has hindered the growth of the sandstorm-resistant forest on about 6.26 million hectares in Shanxi and Hebei, and Beijing and Tianjin municipalities. This will make it more difficult to break the speed of or resist the sandstorms this spring, the SFA said last week.

This year will see a deviation in atmospheric circulation, too, which will generate stronger winds "that will carry more dust", Li said.

But the rise in average temperatures because of global warming would weaken the atmospheric circulation, which means fewer dust storms in the future, said Zhai Panmao, director of the China Meteorological Administration's forecast services and disaster mitigation department.

"Since the number of windy days will decline, there will be fewer sandstorms," he said.

But the SFA warned that the fight against sandstorms would be "very tough" this year because the drought is not yet over.

"If drought-hit regions keep expanding and the dry spell lasts longer, the vegetation we have planted in the sandy wasteland cannot grow properly to prevent desertification," said Luo Bin, deputy director of SFA's department of prevention and control of desertification.

(英语点津 Helen 编辑)

More sandstorms feared this year

About the broadcaster:

More sandstorms feared this yearBernice Chan is a foreign expert at China Daily Website. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Bernice has written for newspapers and magazines in Hong Kong and most recently worked as a broadcaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, producing current affairs shows and documentaries.